Reversal of fortune
GO Back To Where You Came From is a social experiment that takes six ordinary Australians and sends them to where someone else came from.
The resulting three-part documentary is a TV event that every Australian should watch.
The volunteers follow the journey of two refugee families in reverse.
They start out in Australia staying with an African family and a group of Iraqi men who have resettled here after fleeing their war-torn homelands.
From there, the volunteers board a leaky boat in Darwin and steam off in the general direction of Malaysia – spending most of their time bailing water out of the bilge and suffering seasickness.
They follow the trail to the squalid refugee camps and, eventually, into the heart of the conflicts that have caused the exodus.
Their phones, money and all forms of identification are confiscated on day one and they are never told where they are going next.
The six volunteers include a confessed racist from Sydney’s western suburbs, a rural South Australian woman angry about the detention centre built over her back fence, an ex-soldier with a Taiwanese wife who dislikes ‘‘ queue jumpers’’, and a country singer who is so sympathetic to the plight of the refugees that she wants to experience the same things they have.
Through this broad spectrum of viewpoints we experience the reality of this journey.
The cry of ‘‘ go back where you came from’’ is one we hear often but this series actually shows us where some of these asylum seekers came from and forces us to ask: what would they really have to go back to?
Some of the participants do change their views, but perhaps more surprising some of them do not.
If you’ve ever wondered why those in the Villawood Detention Centre riot, what would possess people to risk everything on a leaky boat headed to a mystery location, or exactly what these people are so desperate to run from, this series will give you some answers. Yes, it’s unashamedly sympathetic to the asylum seekers’ plight. But with both sides of Australian politics battling each other over the inflammatory issue of boat people, Go Back To Where You Came From is a welcome attempt to restore the balance.
And if the stories told by the refugee families fail to have an emotional impact, you must question your own humanity.
Maybe it won’t change your mind, but you owe it to yourself and a lot of other people to at least hear the other side of the story.