This post was edited by dostoevskydr at 2013-11-23 17:19|
The first things that come to mind when we think of Australia are man-eating crocodiles, deadly snakes, poisonous spiders, and the baking hot sun. We also imagine it to be a place full of rugged men fighting off deadly predators and having grand adventures in the outback. However, there is much more to Australia than what we learned from watching watchingCrocodile Dundee. Join us as we take a journey through the land down under.
Abuse Of Refugees
Australia is one of the wealthiest and safest nations in the world, so it’s no surprise that people fleeing torture and genocide try to get there. In 2012, 15,000 people sought asylum in Australia. These are not illegal immigrants: Arriving in a country without documentation in order to seek refugee status is legal under both Australian and international law. Of these asylum seekers, 90 percent arrive by plane, and the government is cool with them. But the other 10 percent take the perilous journey from Indonesia in dangerous, unseaworthy boats which frequently sink on the way. What does Australia do with these boat arrivals, some of the most vulnerable people in the world?
Mandatory, indefinite detention (i.e. prison).
The UN calls Australia’s treatment of refugees “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” At Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre, pregnant women reported constant bullying, including being forced to stand for hours in the heat and being underfed to the point of constant hunger. A woman whose newborn child is in hospital has been sent back to her detention center rather than being allowed to stay with the child. The father, also in detention, has not been allowed to visit the child at all. Remember that these people have not broken any laws.
Perhaps the saddest story of the Australian immigration system is that of Cornelia Rau. Cornelia was found on the street in a delusional state, muttering in German. Immigration officials, assuming she was a German who had overstayed her visa, locked her up in Brisbane Women’s Prison.
But Cornelia was not an illegal immigrant; she was an Australian citizen suffering from schizophrenia. Despite the fact that Germany could find no record of the woman she claimed to be, Immigration refused to consider the possibility that she was Australian. Of course, in prison without her medication, her behavior became even stranger, but the officials saw this as further proof of her untrustworthiness.
Cornelia Rau was never charged with any crime, yet she spent almost a year in prison thanks to “an inept and cruel system.”
World’s Longest Fence
Photo credit: wikipedia
Australia has 75 million sheep, kept for both meat and wool, and almost all of them are in the southeast of the continent. The export of wool in particular is very important to the Australian economy. The problem? Wild dogs called dingoes are also in abundance, and they consider sheep to be a tasty snack. To prevent their sheep becoming a meal for hungry predators, the Australians started building fences to keep the vermin out.
The fence was originally intended to be rabbit-proof, but in this it totally failed. In 1880, many different fences had been built by individual farmers, which offered a sort of patchwork protection. In 1946, Australia passed legislation that brought all the fences together into one enormous barricade. New fences were built and old ones joined together to stretch across all of Southern Australia including New South Wales and Queensland. While the Australian government does offer some subsidies to keep the fence up, the responsibility of maintenance usually lies with the landowners of the specific areas. An increasing threat to the fence is feral camels, who will smash down any section of the fence which isn’t electrified.
But without all those dingoes around, kangaroos have proliferated to the extent that culling is often called for. Kangaroo meat is very low in fat and has a rich, gamey flavor. It gets very tough when overcooked, but with a little care, it’s a delicious meat.
But until recently, most Australians wouldn’t touch the stuff. One reason is the much-talked about “cultural cringe”—the prejudice held by Australians that Australian culture is intrinsically inferior to others, particularly European. Australian music, art, and cuisine were held in low regard. Fortunately this is beginning to change.
The other, stranger reason is a kids’ TV show called Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, which was incredibly popular. Skippy would make little kangaroo sounds, and the other characters would reply “What’s that, Skippy? Someone’s in trouble?” So many people have an emotional connection now that it makes eating kangaroo difficult for them. It’d be like eating Lassie or Air Bud.
However, with the increase in environmental awareness, kangaroo meat is gaining local appeal. Unlike cows, kangaroos don’t have hooves which churn up the ground, destroying the topsoil, and they consume far, far less water, which is important in a drought-ridden country like Australia. They also don’t produce anything like the amount of methane that cows do, so their impact on global warming is smaller.
Kangaroo meat has gone from being only fit for dog food, to being haute cuisine. Now most upmarket restaurants will have at least one kangaroo dish on the menu, while kangaroo sausages are commonplace at barbecues.
Bonus fact: Australia is the only country in the world that eats its national emblem.