Boat Day/ Michael Roper Profile By Catherine McLean
Asylum seekers arriving by boat has been a key issue within Australian politics for over a decade. Though there is nothing illegal about asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, the issue is continually blown out of proportion. These people are labelled (incorrectly) as illegal immigrants and treated inhumanely and as criminals. Last November, Michael Roper, a Melbourne-based architect decided that enough was enough. It was time to combat Australia’s “boat fear.” But how?
It was a simple idea that spurred the beginnings of National Boat Day. Gather your mates, pack a picnic and row a boat across your nearest body of water. If a substantial body of water was not available, you could just moor your rig on the grass at your local park. Sounds like a regular day at the park, right? But this simple idea has a much deeper meaning. In fact, National Boat Day is an exercise in empathy. “Australians need to realise that people who arrive on a country’s shore by boat aren’t all that bad. It could be you,” Roper explained. Prior to November, Roper had never been directly involved activism. Of course he made his monthly donation to the UNHCR and attended the odd rally, but he had never instigated a protest himself. After a few years of the idea of Boat Day playing in the back of his mind, he finally decided to take it upon himself to fight against the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. “In the lead up to the last election the conversation on [asylum seekers] was just becoming all the more hysterical,” said Roper. “We started hearing our politicians taking militarised action and it was just at that point that the idea had to turn into something real.” After printing out some flyers and handing them out to people at the Melbourne Climate Rally in November, Michael was suddenly locked into delivering National Boat Day.
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This edition of AM-UNITY Magazine sees a focus on Refugee/Asylum Seeker Rights, Afghan Women’s Rights and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgende...