Two recent awards highlight Australia’s notorious off shore detention camps. A Kurdish journalist has won Australia’s richest literary prize for a book he wrote on his cell phone from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and an Australian doctor won a freedom of speech award after blowing the whistle on the willful neglect of refugees at another camp in Nauru.
Journalist Behrouz Boochani typed out his book on his phone, and sent it, bit by bit, to a translator in Australia.
Last week, “No Friend But the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison” received both the Victorian Prize for Literature and first place in the non-fiction category – together, worth 90,000 dollars.
Boochani was unable to attend the ceremony – he’s been on Manus Island for more than five years now, detained without charge or trial after he and other migrants were intercepted trying to reach Australia by sea. Speaking to The Guardian, where he writes a column, Boochani said “My main aim has always been for the people in Australia and around the world to understand deeply how this system has tortured innocent people on Manus and Nauru in a systematic way for almost six years.”
Dr. Nick Martin defied a gag order after authorities repeatedly ignored his recommendations to transfer sick refugees on Nauru for medical treatment in Australia. Last week, he received the Blueprint Prize for Free Speech.
“I had to look myself in the mirror and I had to say, ‘you knew this was happening and you didn’t say anything’ and I couldn’t do that,” he said.
Dr. Martin also presented evidence in successful challenges to transfer sick children from the camps.
This week, Australia announced that the last four children in detention on Nauru will be moved to the United States. That leaves about 600 men on Manus, and 600 men and women in Nauru.