In the last issue, I reviewed The Power of Good People, by Para Paheer and Alison Corke.
I’ve just returned from the book’s launch in Eltham, 25-odd Km away from my home, and have the need to share this wonderful event with you.
After she received my review, Ali Corke invited me the booklaunch. Para became my Facebook friend, so, when I arrived, he recognised me, and we hugged, instant old friends.
About 80 people gathered to hear Professor Gillian Triggs, who is one of my heroes for standing up to hostile politicians in public, in order to defend the most vulnerable people in Australia. I feel honoured for having met Gillian, and found her to be lovely, unaffected, natural, without airs or graces. She is a lawyer who, all her life, has used her training and expertise for public benefit. Her talk helped me to understand the reasons successive Australian governments have been able to get away with breaking international law, and to torture refugees and asylum seekers with impunity. She demonstrated why we need a bill of rights, like almost every other country in the world.
Another inspiring person there was Cathi Lewis, the publisher of Wild Dingo Press. She started this small publishing company in order to make available books that change the world for the better: those with a message of compassion, equality and decency. Her first release was The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif, which has stayed a bestseller to the present day. I’ve encouraged hundreds of people suffering from meaninglessness and despair to read it. Over the years, I’ve sent editing clients with inspiring stories to Cathi, and she has published several, so it was great to meet her in person.
There was a beautiful, dark-skinned young woman, with a lively little boy who spoke with an Australian accent. As the book describes, Para’s wife, Jayantha, is also a teacher. The two of them went through incredible danger and suffering just for being Tamils in Sri Lanka. Because of his activism as a student leader, Para was arrested on no grounds, and then imprisoned and tortured. Knowing they could never be safe, they had to flee to India. But there was no safety there either, because when the Sri Lankan civil war ended, Tamils were being forcibly returned to Sri Lanka. At last, Para felt no choice but to embark on a little, rickety boat in the hope of reaching Australia, when little Abilash was only two years old. That was 8 years ago. Now, they have at last been reunited. Jayantha and Abilash have only been in Australia for a few months, yet, as I said, the boy speaks like an Aussie, and has excelled at school.
Refugees are the cream of the cream. When thousands of others give up, they fight on. They see opportunities in what appears to be a hopeless situation, and devise ingenious ways out of traps that overwhelm everyone else. They gain the support of others by leading them. When there is no way out, they find one, or create it.
Para himself, once he gained his Permanent Residence visa in Australia, spent three years teaching other refugees in the incredibly challenging environment of the Nauru concentration camp.
Ali is also exceptional. Para is the same age as her children — he, and now his wife and young son, live with Ali, her husband and (when they are around) their children and grandchildren.
I feel incredibly honoured in having become friends with these delightful people. Please buy their book. Para has decided that his royalties will go toward the education of the all too many orphans in Sri Lanka.