Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Hope

Hope

Lottie Bruce

Year 5

I let the tears pour down my face.  The tangle of emotions, so tight inside.  Tighter than the locks on the cells of the rebels in Syria.  I feel so sad sometimes.  So sad I want to die.  The tears rake my face like knives, and the memories come flooding back.  Back in waves of grief, pain and anger.  Back past the day when Mahdi died.  The way he hacked and coughed.  The way the fight went out of him like a tiny, fragile baby bird. How Mama screamed as the icy water flooded the deck of the tiny ramshackle fishing boat; the people smuggler.  And Papa.  Brave, strong Papa.  He tried to hold onto us, but in the end only me and Mahdi survived.  I only feel despair. Numb to love and joy. My heart frozen. Laughing is a distant memory.  How can being alive be illegal?  How can people be so cruel?

I have almost forgotten Arabic.  The guards at the Detention Centre don't even let us pray.  I do hope Allah forgives me.  I am so sorry that I couldn't take care of little Mahdi.  They wouldn't let me tend to him.    They said I would catch it.  If only you were here Mama and Papa.  You would know what to do.  In the end he started coughing blood.  Then he was gone.  Gone like a feather in the wind.  He didn't even get buried properly.  He was just taken away on a stretcher. No mourning.  No white shroud to cover his tiny pale body. I did try to sneak and pick some dandelions by the wire fence, but the guards found me and ripped the flowers to green shreds, laughing. One of the kinder guards patted me on the back and sighed. 

Oh Mama, Papa, I still miss you so much, my heart aches. I still have so many memories.  Some memories make me feel happy and wistful all at the same time, and others make me want to scream, cry and shout at the unfairness of the world.  Memories of Damascus; starlit nights perched on our terracotta roof, wrapped in a warm embrace of love.  Memories of famine and poverty.  Memories of death and destruction. 

Mama used to tell me, “There is hope in everything; it is up to us to believe it”.  I think of the kind guard and smile. I know that no matter how difficult the hardships were, I am grateful for being alive.  Grateful for surviving, and just maybe, I can start a new life. Not be known as the weird refugee kid. Be brave.  Be funny. Be someone...

Human rights matter to me because I believe that everyone deserves equal rights, no matter where you come from or what your skin colour is. The Syrian war is sometimes called the biggest modern human crisis in the world and I agree. It is heartbreaking how many children and adults don't make it to safety. Families are torn apart and sometimes not reunited.  Asylum seekers deserve to find a safe, happy home. I think that Australia is the perfect place, sometimes called the 'lucky country'. How is it that we have so much, and yet we can't share with people who are in greater need than ourselves?