Trek to change our lives

In Kim­ber­ley

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Emily Smith emily.smith@cnbtimes.com.au

MOST peo­ple only see refugee de­ten­tion cen­tres and abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties on the news.

But three years ago Monto’s Tim Craig de­cided his fam­ily should get to know “the other side to our coun­try”, so he shut up their panel-beat­ing shop, bought a car­a­van and towed it to the Kim­ber­ley.

“I wanted to get to know the ‘other side of the world’ of my own coun­try,” Mr Craig said.

“We are Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness but our aim wasn’t to con­vert peo­ple.

“We were mostly there to give peo­ple Bi­ble prin­ci­ples that they can use to change their lives.”

Mr Craig’s wife Fiona said the ex­pe­ri­ence was eye-open­ing, hum­bling and worlds away from what she could have ex­pected.

“We would knock on peo­ple’s doors and they would say, ‘yes, yes come in’, and the whole fam­ily would sit down and lis­ten,” Mrs Craig said.

“Peo­ple just wanted to learn, both about the Bi­ble and about us.

“We would talk about what­ever they wanted to.”

Dur­ing the first 12 months, the Craigs vis­ited only abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

“They are such beau­ti­ful peo­ple and we made so many friends,” Mrs Craig said.

But it was also men­tally ex­haust­ing.

“I have never had so many peo­ple die that I knew,” Mrs Craig said.

“Ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity is af­fected by grief and your emo­tions are of­ten very raw.”

The op­por­tu­nity to work with peo­ple at the men-only Curtin De­ten­tion Cen­tre came right at the end of the fam­ily’s in­tended 12 months, but they ex­tended their trip to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity.

On Mon­days and Tues­days, the Craigs would hold group dis­cus­sions with the men, be­fore eat­ing lunch with them and hav­ing one-on-one chats in the af­ter­noon.

Although the de­ten­tion cen­tre has now been shut down, there were up to 2000 boat-peo­ple there at one stage.

“Some of their sto­ries were in­cred­i­ble. There was one man from Iran who had let four peo­ple from a Christian study group meet in his restau­rant,” Mrs Craig said.

“For that he had his restau­rant taken, bank ac­counts cleared and he was in dan­ger for his life.

“There were lots of peo­ple there who lit­er­ally had to run for their lives.”

Be­fore refugees were sent out of the cen­tre, the Craigs would get a phone call and they would meet them at the air­port.

“That was al­ways very emo­tional; we bonded with a large amount of the peo­ple there,” Mrs Craig said.

“But we are still in con­tact with lots of them.”

The Craigs’ work help­ing un­der­priv­i­leged mi­nori­ties saw them recog­nised by Serco, op­er­a­tor of the Curtin De­ten­tion Cen­tre.

“The ef­fects from their vis­its to the clients are eas­ily seen im­me­di­ately,” the cen­tre’s re­li­gious and cul­tural li­ai­son of­fi­cer Christo­pher Rid­dich said.

He said the mood of the de­tainees im­proved and they were hap­pier after the vis­its, which he cred­ited to the men “know­ing there are peo­ple out there gen­uinely in­ter­ested in their well-be­ing”.

Although the Craig fam­ily were sad to leave, it was their love of our lo­cals and the bet­ter schools that brought them home to Monto.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing not to be liv­ing in a car­a­van any­more. We have so much room here,” Mr Craig said.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: Tim and Fiona Craig with their three daugh­ters on the day they left for the Kim­ber­ley in their car­a­van.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Tim Craig with Mary and Keith, two peo­ple he be­friended in the Kim­ber­ley.

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