Trek to change our lives
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.
TRIP OF A LIFETIME: Tim and Fiona Craig with their three daughters on the day they left for the Kimberley in their caravan.
Tim Craig with Mary and Keith, two people he befriended in the Kimberley.