Poetry for refugees and asylum seekers

We’ve finished writing … 27 poems posted in seven hours.

Three Canberra poets and two guest poets raised nearly $2300.00 for Canberra Refugee Support.

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Emily says it’s the ‘here’ of home
she wants
Niloofar says it’s the transit between ‘home’ and the ‘here’
she does not want
the fear, danger, pursuit, borders, longing —
can we, today, have the ‘here’ and ‘home’ in one place
the journey, the journey end
and Ithaka?
It’s a long way to go
it was a longer road to get here
she cannot go back

Sandra Renew


We packed a suitcase and fled
Not like taking a holiday
the pen moves on marks the paper
careful ticks in some boxes
crosses in others

We got on the boat and the boat sank
We held on tight to a buoy
At first the children were near me
but they were small and the sea so big
the pen moves on marks the paper
careful ticks in some boxes
crosses in others

I am a father who has lost his children
the pen stops …
What is your name?
‘I am a wounded lion but the longer I live
with my wounds the more I feel the pain’
the pen moves on marks the paper IMA

moya pacey

(IMA is a government acronym Illegal Maritime Arrival.
Words in inverted commas spoken by a father who lost three children to Sieve X.)

folds in transit

changing climate folds the weather along unfamiliar lines
populations move across the world through
state borders, fold lines that change and close in a day

there is death in the struggle to rebalance power and resources
… and life
I can’t keep my eyes closed anymore

no-one is illegal
help the people stop the war
and the planet to right itself
I can’t keep my eyes closed anymore

Sandra Renew

I write words …

… wondering
how they can help
those unable to write
without time …
available only
when worrying ceases
and one can see it
as a commodity, a rite
of passage for peace …
they, too famished
unsure of a shelter
to feed their souls
wordless and
wondering …
the wrong I cannot

Hazel Hall

Two sorts of people

From space
I could see planet earth
swarming with pixel people,

two sorts
one pink
and one black.

The pink pixels
seemed to wander at will
but they all returned
to their starting place.

They’re called ‘tourists’
explained my guide.

The black pixels
seemed to wend
more slowly
slower and slower
they went
until they seemed to stop.
They often congregated
in crowded destinations.
They did not return
to their starting place.

From in space
groups of the black pixels
seemed to end in the ocean
but from where I stood
it was hard to say.

They’re called ‘refugees’
explained my guide.

Jill Sutton

The Old Music in a New Land

you play your music
at the writers centre
music of the old
music of the soul …
framed above
is a woman with a cat
the dress she wears
is cobalt blue …
oceans roll
between two countries

the tonbak drum’s
throbbing purr
is the curled cat
soft sounds on leather
the animal is attentive
the woman has melody
in her eyes
you don’t know her
but listening brings
different lives together

two points
to form two hearts
upon a tar
this is the start
of harmony
shaping a shared regard
you play your music
at the writers’ centre
you play
a script for the future

Hazel Hall

The tar is a long necked, waisted musical instrument from Persia and surrounding countries


We were at our nets
heard cries —
Soon there was gold braid,
shiny buttons and polished shoes
stepping around the slime
of dead fish. They lifted
binoculars to their eyes
fixed bodies in the lenses:
mothers, fathers, daughters
sons, brothers, sisters,
grandfathers, grandmothers,
nephews, nieces, cousins,
aunts and uncles.
‘Look away’, gold braid ordered.
‘Attend to your nets and catches.
There is nothing to be done.’
We pushed our boats back out to sea
pulled out the living —
one-hundred and fifty-five.
Later gold braid sailed
out in shiny boats
brought back three-hundred and sixty-six
bodies wrapped in shrouds.

moya pacey

orange dinghies

in defence of our island
we need fancy new jet airplanes
with stealth and fight capacities
and secret new equipment
we bought lots of orange dinghies
and we’re giving them away

the threat is not yet specified
but we need to be quite terrified
in defence of our island
against a thousand seeking refuge
we have lots of orange dinghies
but we’re sending them away

to keep our borders sovereign
in defence of our island
against a thousand seeking refuge
we have lots of orange dinghies
and we’re pushing them away

Sandra Renew

Today we bombed Syria

Today we bombed Syria
today we agreed to give asylum to a small number of refugees
running from bombs under a dangerous sky

we refuse the history of Vietnam
we did not learn from Iraq or Libya
today we bombed Syria
this same today refugees from Syria
rot in tropical jungle camps in our name
in our name the bombs are dropped on Syria

Sandra Renew