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The Messenger

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#5 A Safer Place

Listen to #5 A Safer Place

Stopping the boats. It's one of the most fraught topics in Australian politics, and most of the time it comes out in two soundbites: saving lives at sea, and securing our borders.

Photo of Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Abdul Aziz Muhamat

'I was instructed to … select the children on the basis of how young they looked – because we wanted to send the message to people smuggling networks that even the youngest children were eligible for transfer to the island.'

Greg Lake, former Director of Offshore Processing in the Department of Immigration

In this episode, Aziz tells Michael what it actually feels like to make that journey, and why he made the decision to get on a boat bound for Australia. What was going through his mind? Did he know what he was getting himself into before he stepped onboard?

Michael also speaks to somebody with a unique perspective to offer, because it was his job to stop the boats. Former immigration department official Greg Lake tells Michael about the extraordinary lengths he was asked to go to to carry out official government policy – and why he ultimately walked away from the task.


Download a transcript of this episode in Adobe PDF format.

In this episode

  • Abdul Aziz Muhamat
  • Michael Green
  • Greg Lake, former Director of Offshore Processing, Department of Immigration

Our theme music was composed by Raya Slavin. Music used in this episode includes: ‘Kilvo’ and ‘Ontario’ by Radian, ‘Rhodes Viola Multiple’ by Keith Fullerton Whitman, ‘Four-Day Interval’ by Tortoise, ‘Outward’ by Rhythm & Sound, ‘Plastic Energy Man’ by Papa M, ‘Whitetail’ by Low, ‘Mdrmx’ by Brothomstates, ‘Malá Strana’ by Gui Boratto, ‘Collapse of Materialists’ by Forma, ‘Blau’ by Ganger, ‘Guitars for Plants’ by Mice Parade, ‘There Are Other Words (They Have Not Told You Of)’ by Jan Jelinek and ‘On’ by Aphex Twin.

More information

The Messenger is a co-production of Behind the Wire and the Wheeler Centre. It’s produced by Michael Green, André Dao, Hannah Reich and Bec Fary, with Jon Tjhia and Sophie Black at the Wheeler Centre.

Narration by Michael Green. With reporting by Abdul Aziz Muhamat. Additional fact checking by the Guardian's Ben Doherty; transcription by Claire McGregor, Victoria Grey, Eugenia Zoubtchenko, Laura Mitchell and many more​. This episode was edited and mixed by Bec Fary and Jon Tjhia.

Thank you

Dana Affleck, Angelica Neville and Sienna Merope. Also to Cameron Ford, and to Behind the Wire’s many participants and volunteers. Behind the Wire is supported by the Bertha Foundation.


Portrait of Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Abdul Aziz Muhamat

Abdul Aziz Muhamat is a 24-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan. He is from the Zaghawa ethnicity, and with his family, he fled his village to a refugee camp. He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 and was taken to Manus Island, where he remains.

Portrait of Michael Green

Michael Green

Michael Green is a journalist in Melbourne. He has written about environmental and social issues for the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Nature, Nautilus, Smith Journal, Right Now and Overland, among others. He is the coordinator of Behind the Wire, and has been working on a book of people’s stories from detention called They Cannot Take the Sky, which will be published in March 2017 by Allen & Unwin. He is also producing an exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum based on the stories in the book, which will open on 17 March 2017.


All messages as part of this discussion and any opinions, advice, statements, or other information contained in any messages or transmitted by any third party are the responsibility of the author of that message and not the Wheeler Centre.

The Messenger

From Behind the Wire and the Wheeler Centre, 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.