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Podcast episodeCover image for of Introducing our newest podcast series, The Messenger

Introducing our newest podcast series, The Messenger  /  Migration

To begin 2017, in partnership with volunteer-run oral history project Behind the Wire, we launched a new podcast series. It's called The Messenger, and we'd like to share its first episode with you.

The Messenger brings you into the Australian immigration detention centre on Manus Island – and reveals, in intimate detail, one man's experience of what it's really like to flee tragedy and seek asylum by boat. It's reported almost entirely via WhatsApp voice messages sent from a smuggled phone. You might remember it from last year's podcast competition, So You Think You Can Pod; it was the winning entry.

About the episode

As a journalist, Michael Green had spoken to a lot of people who’ve been held in detention centres. Some were there for a few weeks, and others for as long as six years.

But he’d never spoken to someone who was still inside a detention centre, and that’s because Australia’s immigration department, and the governments of Nauru and Manus, have traditionally made it very difficult for journalists to communicate with detainees. Visitors aren’t allowed to make recordings, and the people who came by boat weren’t initially allowed to use their own phones

Then, early last year, Michael was given the phone number of a man who was still in detention on Manus Island. His name was Aziz. He was from Sudan, and he had a smuggled phone. But that was all Michael knew. So he sent him a text message saying hello, and he asked if we could speak on the phone. Aziz wrote back saying the reception in his room was too weak for calls.

Michael thought they’d have to communicate entirely by text. Then he realised that on WhatsApp, you can send little voice messages that get delivered whenever you’re in range.

And so, in March 2016, Michael and Aziz first made contact.

 
Podcast episodeCover image for of #3 I Have Got Some People Waiting For Me

3 I Have Got Some People Waiting For Me  /  Migration

Aziz’s life has been a story of chance – and choice. As Michael pieces together Aziz’s journey from Sudan to Manus, he realises Aziz has been searching for a safe place for about eight years. So what gives him the ability, and the energy, to speak out? How has Aziz fought for so long, and what makes him want to be ‘the messenger’?

‘I’m pretending like I’m really happy, and laugh, and you know, smiling on the phones and doing stuff like that – so they feel like, “Oh, my son is really living in a good environment”. So they think like that, but the opposite is the truth.’

Aziz

Aziz tells Michael, ‘I have got some people ...waiting for me. They love me, they want me to be with them.’ Haltingly, and sometimes with great difficulty, Aziz starts to share stories about his home, the family that he longs to see, and why he fled.

Looking to find out more, Michael speaks to Sudan expert Anne Bartlett about the current situation there. As Aziz shares snapshots from his past, Anne talks Michael through the conflict in Sudan, which, despite leaving the headlines long ago, continues to unfold.

Michael worries that he’s adding to Aziz’s trauma by digging up painful memories – ever aware of how hard it is to have these kinds of conversations in short, overlapping messages, without the benefit of reading someone’s signals face to face.

Meanwhile, Aziz weighs up how much to tell his family about Manus, and explains to Michael why he’s sometimes tortured by regret.

Warning: This episode of The Messenger includes graphic content and mentions self-harm. If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact one of Australia’s national 24/7 crisis services such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or at lifeline.org.au, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Transcript

Download a PDF transcript of this episode here.

In this episode Abdul Aziz Muhamat Michael Green Associate Professor Anne Bartlett, University of New South Wales, President of the Sudan Studies Association

Our theme music was composed by Raya Slavin. Music…

 
Podcast episodeCover image for of #1 Aziz, Not a Boat Number

1 Aziz, Not a Boat Number  /  Migration

As a journalist, Michael Green had spoken to a lot of people who’ve been held in detention centres. Some were there for a few weeks, and others for as long as six years.

But he’d never spoken to someone who was still inside a detention centre, and that’s because Australia’s immigration department, and the governments of Nauru and Manus, have traditionally made it very difficult for journalists to communicate with detainees. Visitors aren’t allowed to make recordings, and the people who came by boat weren’t initially allowed to use their own phones.

‘Same day – or different day – same shit. But still alive.’

Aziz

Then, early last year, Michael was given the phone number of a man who was still in detention on Manus Island. His name was Aziz. He was from Sudan, and he had a smuggled phone. But that was all Michael knew. So he sent him a text message saying hello, and he asked if we could speak on the phone. Aziz wrote back saying the reception in his room was too weak for calls.

Michael thought they’d have to communicate entirely by text. Then he realised that on WhatsApp, you can send little voice messages that get delivered whenever you’re in range.

And so, in March 2016, Michael and Aziz first made contact.

Transcript

Download a PDF transcript of this episode here.

Further reading ‘Meet the Messenger of Manus, one man trapped in Australia's offshore processing regime’ by Ben Doherty, Guardian, accessed 24 January 2017 ‘Broken Men in Paradise’ by Roger Cohen, New York Times, accessed 23 January 2017 ‘Not always and only broken: some responses to Roger Cohen’s New York Times article’ by Janet Galbraith with Behrouz Boochani, The Stringer, accessed 23 January 2017 In this episode Abdul Aziz Muhamat Michael Green

Our theme music was composed by Raya Slavin. Music used in this episode includes: ‘Mario Bava Sleeps In a Little Later Than He Expected To’ and ‘What True Self? Feels Bogus, Let’s Watch Jason X’ by Chris Zabriskie, ‘Blau’ by Ganger, ‘+’ by Kazumasa Hashimoto, ‘Malá Strana’ by Gui Boratto, ‘Open Melody’ by…

Anything and everything in Social justice from across our archives.

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