The Refugee Advocate

Fabia | Volunteer

“I think we need to have humanitarian airlifts from Indonesia. That would stop the boats in five minutes. If the government was really serious about it, that’s what they’d to.”

It is 12 o’clock on a warm winter Wednesday, and it’s one of Fabia’s quieter afternoons.

The doors of her tranquil old Castlecrag home hang open, the pastel pink walls of every room saturated with sunlight and the smell of incense and brewed tea and firewood.

Fabia hums to herself as she flutters between her clanking outdoor washing machine and the cauldron of homemade dahl spluttering on the stove.

The 63-year-old retired ESL teacher dedicates her time to asylum seekers held behind Villawood’s barbed wire fences and those still trapped in community detention. She works alone, writing submissions to policy panels, zipping around in her mini red Yaris, and sometimes ­— just sometimes — grabbing the microphone at refugee rights rallies.

“It’s exhausting, but it’s better than going to superannuation seminars and having my bone density checked,” she laughs.

Her heavily kohl-lined eyes glow green, but are tired, damp. She stirs the steaming pot of lentils and rubs the deep furrows carved above her cheeks.

Fabia has three children — a fly neuroscientist in Singapore, a musician in New York (who has a 15-year-old son — “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” she whispers), and a daughter who has just moved out of home.

“There’s no one around the house anymore, so I might as well get up to things while they’re gone.” She grins, then sighs.

“It has to be people like me who fight for them, because asylum seekers can’t fight for themselves.

“I used to work with refugee children. Some had been locked up for months. What happened to them was really wrong, so I just made up my mind that I’m going to work against this system.

“I’m going to work for justice for these people until the day I die.”


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