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'God bless all true refugees' support flag flown on the Flotillas of Hope

Date: 2004
Overall: 321 x 319 x 2 mm, 9.9 g
Medium: Cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Ruth Boydell
Classification:Visual communication
Object Name: Flag
Object No: 00047043

User Terms

    This flag bearing the handwritten message 'God bless all true refugees. Keep strong,' is signed by Jane. It was one of many flags covered in messages of support which were flown from yachts participating in the Flotillas of Hope expedition from Sydney to the Pacific island of Nauru in 2004. Flotillas of Hope was a convoy of two yachts EUREKA and ONE OFF that sailed from Australia to deliver gifts and messages of support to 264 asylum seekers detained on Nauru as part of the Australian Government's Pacific Solution (2001-2008).
    SignificanceThis flag is significant in representing the support that the Flotillas of Hope received on their journey to challenge Australian government policies and negative attitudes towards asylum seekers.
    HistoryOn 26 August 2001 the Norwegian cargo ship MV TAMPA made international headlines when its crew rescued 433 asylum seekers from their stricken fishing boat, PALAPA 1, in the Indian Ocean.

    Under pressure from some of the desperate asylum seekers TAMPA's Captain, Arne Rinnan, headed for the offshore Australian territory of Christmas Island. TAMPA was denied permission to enter Australian waters. When some passengers became unconscious Captain Rinnan issued a mayday signal and sailed toward Christmas Island. TAMPA was boarded by Australian special forces who ordered the ship to turn around.

    Following an intense political stand-off the asylum seekers, who were mainly from Afghanistan, were transferred to the Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS MANOORA. They were taken to New Zealand, where many were later granted asylum, and also the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

    The detention centre on Nauru was established as part of the Australian Government's controversial Pacific Solution (2001-2008). This aimed to prevent refugees from reaching Australian territory, where they could legally claim asylum, to detain them in cooperating foreign countries while their status was assessed. A small number of asylum seekers were eventually granted refugee status and resettled in Australia.

    The TAMPA crisis attracted extensive media coverage in Australia and overseas and ignited public debate about asylum seekers, border protection and safety of life at sea. The issue of border protection dominated the November 2001 Federal election campaign and the incumbent Liberal Party was re-elected. Leader John Howard famously claimed: 'We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.'

    In 2003 Ruth Boydell and Steve Georgopoulos, lecturers at Newcastle TAFE, devised a plan to raise public awareness of the Pacific Solution and reassure asylum seekers on Nauru that many Australians did not agree with this policy. Their idea was to launch Flotillas of Hope, a seaborne protest that would sail from Australia in May 2004 and arrive in Nauru on 20 June 2004 (World Refugee Day). The Flotilla carried a 'Cargo of Hope' - toys, educational and recreational items, a generator for the country's hospital and messages of support.

    The Flotilla consisted of two vessels, the one-masted sailing boat EUREKA and the gaff rigged timber vessel ONE OFF. The crew included Ruth, Steve and five other people recruited via the internet and activist groups. The Flotilla was launched from Pyrmont Point in Sydney and docked in Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Brisbane and the Solomon Islands before entering Nauruan waters. Here the boats were intercepted and turned back by six Nauru Customs vessels. Although the Flotilla failed to deliver its gifts, the expedition received an extraordinary amount of publicity, including pieces in French newspaper Le Monde and on the BBC and ABC Pacific. Laptop computers and satellite phones on board kept the Australian and global media informed of the Flotilla's progress.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: 'God bless all true refugees' support flag flown on the Flotillas of Hope

    Assigned title: Fabric for flag - God Bless All True Refugees, Keep Strong, Jane

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