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Ship's helm from Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV)

Date: c 1980
Dimensions:
Overall: 520 x 750 mm
Medium: Wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Australian Customs Service
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Wheel
Object No: 00026054

User Terms

    Description
    A wooden varnished ship's helm from a Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (SIEV). This item is from Australian Customs Service relating to people smuggling.
    SignificanceThis collection includes rare items relating to the operation of Indo-Chinese Origin Vessels (ICOV) and Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels (SIEV) between Indonesia and Australia from the 1980s. The rudimentary nature of the items reflects the basic, and often decrepit condition, of the boats engaged in people smuggling.
    HistorySince the era of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, governments in Australia have taken determined steps to deter refugees from arriving in Australia without authorisation.

    The first wave of boat people arrived in Australia between 1976 and 1981, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. They arrived at a time of dramatic social upheaval in Australia, with spirited public debate about our involvement in the Vietnam War, the new concept of multiculturalism, the breaking of many of Australia's traditional ties with Britain, and the forging of new links with Asia. Despite some opposition from the wider community, the relaxation of immigration restrictions meant that most of the 2,059 refugees were allowed to stay.

    The second wave of boat people arrived mostly from Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China between 1989 and 1998. On average 300 people arrived per year. The term ICOV (Indo-Chinese Origin Vessel) was used to refer to illegal entry vessels. This was replaced by SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel) when illegal entry vessels started to arrive from areas other than Indo-China.

    SIEV is the term used by the Australian Defence Force and Coastwatch to refer to vessels attempting to reach Australia without authorisation. As the boats come under surveillance they are assigned an official number. SIEV 1 arrived in Australian waters in September 2001.

    Since 1999 increasing numbers of asylum seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East have arrived in Australia. They are distinct from the previous two waves of boat people in that they usually involve larger numbers of arrivals and their passage is organised by people smugglers. During the peak period between 1999 and 2001, several thousand asylum seekers arrived per year.

    The topic of people making such voyages to claim asylum in Australia has always been controversial, stirring the full gamut of responses in the Australian community - from compassion and support to resentment and xenophobia.

    However the Australian Government has acknowledged that the number of unauthorised boat arrivals in Australia is small in comparison to countries in Europe, and that the majority of onshore asylum seekers actually arrive in Australia by air (Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976, Commonwealth of Australia, 2011).

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