Rights of Passage - 2005 competition


An unforgettable journey

By Mina Hussaini, 17, VIC

An unforgettable journey is a powerful personal account of the journey to Australia and consequent detention of Mina and her family.

I'm writing about my biggest journey which I will never forget and which will always be in my mind.

My Mum and Dad were calling my brothers, sisters and I to come and pick the things we wanted to take to the boat. I picked up most of the things and put them in the bags. Then there was the car with the smuggler ready to take us to the beach. After an hour we were near the beach and there were lots of other people who also wanted to get in the boat. People were pushing each other to get into the boat sooner. There were lots of small and big bags but we couldn't get all of them to the boat because lots of people were pushing and pulling us.

We finally got a small place on the boat, above the engine and for a second I felt safe and comfortable. It was really hot there because the engine was just below the deck. There were lots of people coming and there were not many spaces to even sit there. My Mum and I stayed there all night with my sisters and brothers and I really felt bad because of the heat and the smell of the engine. I was vomiting and there was no water to drink. I asked someone I didn't know to give my younger sister some tea because she was really thirsty and was crying to get some water but we couldn't get any. The next morning, my Dad came and called us to go to the other side of the boat which was much better than where we were. There we could breathe the fresh air but I was still vomiting and couldn't eat or drink anything and even when I drank water I vomited.

Day after day passed. It was the seventh day we had been on the ocean and I was really tired. All my muscles were in pain and I even wished to die there. I really couldn't tell if I was still alive or not when suddenly someone shouted that he saw an Australian ship. Then two Australian servicemen came onto our boat and told us to go back to Indonesia but I didn't know much English so I didn't understand what they were saying. Then someone who was in front of me asked what they were saying and another one answered "He's saying you must go back." I really didn't know if what I was hearing was real. Suddenly I didn't know what was going on, because there was lots of smoke around and I couldn't see anything around me. I fainted and I thought I had died because I couldn't move. Then I heard my brother's voice calling me and he took my hand and made me jump into the water, which was deeper than I could imagine. Luckily, we were wearing life jackets. After a few minutes I found myself in the water and I was really confused and scared. I couldn't swim but my older brother held me above the water. There were also lots of other people in the water shouting for help. There was a small boat which was picking people up. After about half an hour my brother and I had been rescued. We didn't know where the others in our family were and we felt worried and lonely.

Two days later Mustafa and I were taken on to a big ship. We found out that there were other small ships with people on them. We were sitting on the army bunks when I heard someone say that the soldiers were bringing the people from the other ship to us on the big naval ship. I kept my eyes on the gate of the naval ship for two hours before I recognised my Mum with her black scarf and red eyes, full of tears, coming through the gate. My brother run to her and my Mum gave him a big hug and cried loudly. Then she gave me a big hug and kissed me and we cried together. A few minutes later I saw my Dad and the rest of the family. We all cried and felt very happy to see each other safe and healthy. Then we told our Mum and Dad that our grandmother died in the water. We all cried from losing her and couldn't believe this really big sorrow. My Mum held my hand and told me that she would never leave me alone. She told me the bad things that came to her mind during our separation and how bad she felt. We stayed there all night holding each others hands and I told her that I was very happy to see her and the rest of the family alive. Well, thank God.

We had been on the naval ship for four days without knowing what was going to happen to us, they didn't tell us where they were taking us. I was confused and my eyes were all red and hurting from the salty water. On the afternoon of the fourth day they told us that in half an hour we would land on Christmas Island. We arrived there at 3 pm and then we were taken to a volleyball hall. We spent the night there and in the morning after having some breakfast we were taken to the camp on Christmas Island where there were some other refugees as well. It was really strange for me to see other people from other countries like Sri Lanka, Iraq and Vietnam. On the fifth day we buried our grand mother in the graveyard of Christmas Island and my family and I cried and it was really a sad time for all of us. We were kept on Christmas Island for three months and during this time we could go once a month to my grandmothers' grave and after that we were taken to Nauru, an island far from everywhere. I was there for three years and I hated it.