The Clock is Ticking for Next Tuesday
The clock is ticking. The question is—how will our new government respond? As Australia gets ready to shutter its Manus
Island refugee prison, leaving 800 refugees in danger, will New Zealand revive its offer to take 150 of Australia’s
Food, water and all resources at the site will be finished as of next Tuesday, October 31st. Men will be given a
one-month supply of their medication, many of whom suffer from severe mental illness.
In 2013, New Zealand set up a deal in Queenstown between then Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and John Key. New Zealand
agreed to accept 150 of Australia’s refugees annually. Subsequent Australian Prime Ministers later tabled that deal,
fearing New Zealand would become a ‘consolation prize’.
‘This is our opportunity for a fresh New Zealand government to reassess the terms of that problematic agreement and see
what can be done to help these long suffering refugees. The utter cruelty of the Australian government continues. They
have been offered places in their Nauru prison instead,’ said Tracey Barnett, journalist and curator of ‘Transplanted’,
a ten-day ‘talking space’ around refugee issues that is opening in Wellington at The New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Oct
27 – Nov 5th. Barnett is on the executive board of the Refugee Council of New Zealand and is the author of The Quiet War on Asylum’. Most recently she launched ‘Welcome #500Now’, an initiative that four former Prime Ministers have come together to
endorse, Helen Clark, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Jim Bolger and Mike Moore.
‘These are just some of the issues that will be up for discussion by our speakers over these next ten days. The
combination of a new government with fresh eyes to these policies—and the urgency of the news happening right now on
Manus are going to push us to reassess where New Zealand sits now. Can we be the moral voice, leading our region on fair
refugee policy? What an incredible opportunity to be just that,’ said Barnett.
‘Transplanted: Refugee Portraits of New Zealand’ will be opening this Friday, October 27th , 6:00pm with featured
speaker, Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Sessions will include panel discussions with young refugee leaders, including new MP
Golriz Ghahraman and current Young New Zealander of the Year, Rez Gardi, as well as a session on ‘Hot Spots’, a
discussion with the ambassadors of Italy and Turkey.
A highlight of the exhibit will be weekend ‘Human Library’ sessions where former refugees will sit down to chat with
patrons one-on-one or in small groups to exchange views, share stories and simply see where their conversations go.
‘It’s a real shame that we don’t think of the word ‘refugee’ for what it is—a transition, a terrible chapter in what is
ultimately a much bigger life.’ said Barnett. ‘Until we start disassociating the word ‘refugee’ from ‘terrorist’ and
‘illegal’, and sit it alongside the reality—of teachers, builders, lawyers and students, we will never see the truer
dimension these lives deserve. These portraits are us, ‘transplanted’ lives, Kiwis whose stories are ours now too.’
The stunning, two-metre tall, black and white close-up portraits are by award winning photographer Alistair Guthrie.