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Copyright 2007

Dark Victory by David Marr & Marian Wilkinson

Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2004


Marr and Wilkinson have brought to light the events surrounding the Australian Government’s refusal to accept illegal immigrants, or boat people, in 2001.

During Operation Relex, as it was called, there was a tight control of media coverage so the public was not aware of all that happened, nor how many boatloads of refugees were affected.

A number of reporters did take notes and attempt to research the full story to no avail; many of these same reporters have shared their research and knowledge with Marr and Wilkinson so that the story could be told.

In August 2001, people were fleeing from the Taliban in Afghanistan and Sadam Hussein in Iraq. Many of these people fled into Europe, but some attempted to move through Asia and seek refuge in Australia. At that time, Australia maintained a reputation as a generous country for refuges and immigrants, taking in more people than any other nation except Canada. However, the Australian Government only wanted to accept people of it’s choosing, not those who arrived on Australian shores “illegally.”

The KM Palapa 1 was overloaded and under equipped. When it finally sent out distress signals, it took two days of political manoeuvring before a ship, the Tampa, was requested to collect the survivors. This started the Operation, and the people were refused entry to Australia, even for medical treatment.

Dark Victory continues to describe the events up to the November federal election that year. The books details how 13 boats tried to reach Australia without success, including one boat which was lost along with 352 lives. It also goes through the political processes of the time – election campaigning, the September 11 tragedy, Opposition errors, miscommunications and desperate attempts to divert responsibility for these people.

Many of the details covered by the book are unpleasant; people were kept in horrible conditions and treated like refuse rather than refugees. The book is an eye opener into the Operation and Australian politics; it is both interesting in a impersonal way and upsetting from a humane angle.

Marr and Wilkinson have presented the story clearly and well; this book deserves to be recognised as part of Australian history.


Tash Hughes is a Mum of two in Melbourne. She is also a writer and owner of Word Constructions. Tash is available to write articles and profiles for any business, as well as doing other business documentation projects. You can see her site and services at www.wordconstructions.com

 

Dark Victory cover
Dark Victory

 

 

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