29 October 2013

I hear that Jesus likes hot potatoes

For those that might not know, I'm a little fond of climbing up on the old soapbox on occasion.  Particularly around equality and social justice issues.  I'm constantly flabbergasted and genuinely bewildered by people that think they are somehow more equal than other people.

I recently got an email from someone who seemed to have taken a gap in their calendar and filled it up by reading my blog.  Which is quite flattering except that they appear not to like me very much - they said that I was a bit like the devil, first loving 'them gays' and now it's clear I'm a 'black refugee lover' as well.

So basically I am Jesus. Not the devil. And as an aside, I bet he didn't know he was coming back as a pudgy, potty mouthed bleeding heart female.

The intended insult has misfired.  See, I do love them gays and them refugees.  Even the non-black ones. I am completely okay with them having the same legal status as me and being treated with kindness and compassion when seeking asylum. Even if I met them and didn't lurrrrrrrveeeee them I'd still have this opinion.  And just to show how well rounded I am - I also believe that climate change is a thing and that we totally suck in our approach to supporting the differently abled. I know. What kind of arse am I?

On the subject of being a 'refugee lover' I recently became Deputy Director for the Sydney Branch of Welcome to Australia, which is an organisation that seeks to establish a culture of welcome more akin to the national anthem rather than that portrayed in political soundbites or via our mainstream media.  It's a voluntary position which is really going to piss my troll off - that's right dear troll - I'm not even being PAID to give a shit.  Though I was promised a badge.*

So last night, this new position got me walking the red carpet at The Golden Age Cinema in Surry Hills.  An absolute darling of a cinema dating back to the olden days.  Like the 1940s or something.  I was there for the launch of The Hot Potato which is a little gem (see what I did there?) of a documentary put together by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) to 'take the heat' out of the asylum seeker debate.  They got themselves a caravan and toodled around ten towns in ten days serving hot potatoes and inviting people to share their views about the issue.

Even Wally 'Gotye' an opinion
Yep - even people that didn't agree with them.  And this is the astounding simplicity of the idea.  Sometimes an idea seems so RIGHT, so OBVIOUS, that we forget to allow people to express an alternate view and explore their concerns or the things they don't understand and so in the face of BLEEDING HEART SOAPBOXERS like myself, they say nothing and carry on thinking what they are thinking, or wondering what they are wondering and taking part in BBQ conversations based entirely on the views expressed in The Daily Telegraph or by Andrew Bolt or the Prime Minister.  Where is reasoned debate or an opportunity for greater understanding?.

Enter 10,000 potatoes, a bunch of LISTENERS and BOOM... 10 myths about asylum seekers blown out of the water just by allowing people access to the facts along with insanely delicious potato toppings.

That beard is called Tom
The unintentional star of the movie is Reg.  Reg, by his own admission, was 'just there to drive the bleedin' caravan from A to B'.  He really didn't give a rat's arse about any of it and yet by the end, he'd come around to a different point of view and publicly owned that change of heart. His original views weren't all wrong, but they weren't all right either and given the opportunity to better understand - he did.  He's a gruff bugger and a brave one.  Very few of us are prepared to admit we've changed our mind let alone publicly.  HIP HIP Reg.

Reg and Carmelo  (awwww)
At the launch, one of the panellists involved in the making of the film mentioned how she'd had her unconscious stereotypes challenged too.  In Queanbeyan, she spoke to any number of flannelette wearing, heavily tattooed blokes tending toward bogan about the issue and they all thought asylum seekers were getting a rough deal.  And she said she welcomed the learning that she got herself that her assumptions and beliefs were wrong.  I loved that honesty and insight.

Therein lies the heart of tiny little film that roars.  It really offers up an opportunity to have a dialogue and to return to the Australia we most want, that of the fair go.  Not one full of angry people on either side of a line screaming RIGHT! WRONG! RIGHT! WRONG! and not listening and not understanding.

Which isn't somehow as REVOLUTIONARY but undoubtedly a lot more successful.

Sigh.  Rational, reasonable people are no fun.  But they make great films.

Check it out at www.thehotpotato.com.au and take the conversation to your next pub night, or BBQ.  And tell them Reg sent you.

*I didn't want to appear cheap. And I still haven't got it. BRAD! Just saying.

Please note: This isn't a sponsored post.  Yes, I have a vested interested in sharing something that supports my point of view but I really think this is a game changer and a great film. The soundtrack isn't as catchy as that of Grease, but I think the appeal will last just as long.  Please share with people and even if you don't agree - remember to be lovely because being born in Australia is for the vast majority of us nothing but luck, and if we are truly lucky - we don't need to be arseholes.  Thanks xoxo


  1. Well done, Allison, on turning something awful (hate mail) into something good (a great post). Take solace also in the thought that it's likely many people who have opposing views to yours have read your blog and perhaps gone away thinking a little more about the issue or a little more willing to open their minds a bit.
    Big congrats on the Deputy Director for the Sydney Branch of Welcome to Australia gig - wow! I hope they know how lucky they are to have you. And I really hope you get that badge.
    Keep the controversy coming! x

  2. well if someone's gonna insult you, I guess telling you that "you love them gays and them refugees" is about as good an 'insult' as I can think of! Good on you for turning your troll experience into an awesome post. What an absolutely brilliant idea that the guys from the ASRC had to go around debating and serving up hot potatoes - love it! I love those moments when I have had my unconscious stereotypes challenged - they are moments of radical personal change and growth that have made me realise that I wasn't necessarily who I thought I was and that other people weren't necessarily who I thought they were either. Wishing you all the best in your role at Welcome to Australia :)

  3. This was so well written!
    I really can't believe the emails people send sometimes. It just makes me shake my head

  4. Found you via fybf.

    I LOVE this. Especially the part about spouting whatever misinformation theyread in the Tele.
    My little sister voted for the first time this year.
    At first she was going to vote for Abbott because "We have to stop the boats."
    When I asked her why, she couldn't give me an answer. Not even one that had been forced upon her through the media. She had just heard the slogan so many times, she believed it to be true.
    We had a long conversation about how it is not illegal to seek asylum and the people who do so only do it under the gravest of circumstances.
    At least she got to understand.
    Hopefully your organisation can help teach the next generation to think <3