SIEV X Memorial

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There are so many stories to be told around the installation of the memorial to the 353 people who drowned while attempting the journey to Christmas Island on 19th October 2001.

I have visited the SIEV X memorial site numerous times and the impact has not reduced.

With each pole representing an individual and its height indicating the age of the person, as well as the small shape indicating the size of the boat, the tragedy remains as devastating to think about today despite the 14 years that have passed.

At the time we witnessed a response by community members to not allow these individuals to be forgotten. From others, namely forces within the Commonwealth Government, there were desperate efforts to disallow the erection of such a memorial.

In the end it was the ACT Government that worked around the Commonwealth and the NCA and provided the opportunity for the temporary memorial. Over time, the ACT Government has extended the permission for the memorial to stay where it is.

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At the time of its first installation, several people made more out of the politics of the disaster, namely they used the staging of the memorial as another reason to attack the Howard Government. While the actions of that government deserved to be howled down, this memorial was primarily not a political statement but an installation created by groups of people to give the relatives of those who perished some form of outlet for their grief.

The memorial continues to be a reminder of the dreadful state of the world whereby people are forced to make the choice to leave their homes and to risk everything. To think that three times the population of Canberra could be about to walk into Germany seeking refuge speaks volumes of the complexities of the refugee crisis that has now been with us in various forms for over a decade.

Yet we still know not what to do!

The SIEV X memorial is a reminder of the 2001 disaster and of the fact that ordinary people wish this country could do more.

Take people there and tell them the story. Take time out and spend a few minutes there alone to reflect on the on-going situation that others are dealing with right now.

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also published on RiotACT

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Paul Costigan

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