“White Night Melbourne is the city as you know it, turned on its head in a dusk ’til dawn celebration of culture and creativity. A night where the surreal seems real, White Night Melbourne is a rare opportunity to experience the city in a different light.”
Four years since the inaugural White Night Melbourne, I’m still very much in love with this festival. For one night, the buildings are a kaleidoscope of illuminated colour. There are buskers on every corner and a myriad of artworks/projections on display. The crowd throngs; sauntering and oft-times dancing down Swanston Street. There is so much laughter and singing; even on the train ride home. For me, it’s almost the perfect time to get lost in the vibrant streets and laneways of Melbourne.
“There is something indecent about the idea that in order to prevent people from drowning in their attempt to reach safety you punish the ones who don’t drown. That is precisely what this country is doing right now.” Julian Burnside
For some time now I have been ashamed of Australia. I love this country, but I utterly despise what is happening to the refugees who have been left to rot on offshore detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru. I will never agree with a government policy that imprisons a person who is fleeing for their life; from persecution or a war-zone or any other dangerous situation. And I hope, beyond hope, that one day the politicians responsible for these policies will be brought to task (even prosecuted) for their complicity in human rights abuses.
This is not the first time I’ve felt ashamed of Australia. Back in the early 90s, I travelled to South Africa. I can vividly remember a late-night conversation about politics with a group of university students. This was about a year before Nelson Mandela was elected as President and they were understandably anxious about the political climate of their own country. But the conversation turned and I was horrified to hear Australia being compared to South Africa in terms of civil rights. I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. I’m so ashamed that, until that moment, I knew nothing about the Stolen Generations – or the underlying current of racism that has always existed in this country. I have written more about this in My journey with The Black Arm Band; including the fact that the government policy of the day was kept secret from generations of Australians.
Does that sound familiar? Because it should! Now journalists are not allowed to visit detention camps; doctors are not allowed to talk about the appalling conditions; the government doesn’t have to tell us if more refugee boats have arrived.