It is purely coincidental that I originally wrote this review on election day (2016) here in Australia as it was at the height of the 2001 Federal election campaign that a 19.5 metres long by 4 metres wide leaky coastal fishing boat carrying 421 people sank en route to Christmas Island, Australia from Indonesia.
353 asylum seekers (including 146 children), mostly from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, perished.
In 2001 asylum seekers and border protection were major issues in the federal election. They remain major issues for Australia, and many other countries, to-day.
This community created memorial, comprising one decorated pole for each life lost (a long pole for each adult and a short one for each child), was erected here in Weston Park in 2007. The federal government refused permission to have it erected on federally owned land in the vicinity of Parliament House, deeming it not to be an approved structure.
Who should be held responsible for the loss of life remains a political hot potato which I won’t go into here. Google ‘SIEV X’ if you desire further detail in this regard.
As it happens, the eventual location (which even the local (ACT) government only granted on a temporary basis), on the southern banks of Lake Burley Griffin, while a bit out of the way, is perfect with the lake reminding the visitor of the sea – as best as is possible in land-locked Canberra – across which so many have risked their lives for a better life in Australia.
The snake like formation of poles, stretching 400 metres along the lake’s foreshore, has towards its end a small bulbous arrangement of poles which one might think represents the head of the snake. Not so. The poles here (see main picture attached) are laid out to mark the outline of the stricken boat. How desperate were 421 people to head out across the open sea in a leaky vessel of this size which was totally ill equipped for ocean travel, leaving aside the overcrowding issue?
While the plaque at the memorial suggests that the vessel was called the SIEV X, hence the name for the memorial, this is not the case. The name SIEV X derives from the fact that unauthorised boats approaching Australia are formally referred using the naval acronym, Suspected Irregular Entry Vessel. X is the temporary designation assigned to a SIEV while ‘the case’ awaits an official number. This SIEV sank before it got its official number. As the real name of the vessel is not known SIEV X stuck.
The poles were decorated by over three hundred schools, churches and community groups across Australia. In addition to being a touching memorial I love it as a wonderful piece of artwork.
The message relayed by those responsible for the memorial:
“…is that Australia is not a country defined by fear and greed.
Love is stronger than fear
Kindness is stronger than greed.”
Getting there and entry fee
Entry to Weston Park is free with vehicular access between 7am and 10pm during daylight saving, or until 8pm during other months. Foot and cycle access 24/7.
The park is easily accessible by car.
By bus, from the city centre take bus No 1 towards Woden, alighting in Yarralumla at the Schlich St/ Novar St stop. From here it’s a 5-10 walk to the park entry and about 20 minutes to the SIEV X Memorial.
I generally visit the park by bicycle, combining it in a ride around the west basin of the Lake Burley Griffin. You can too. See my reviews on cycling around the lake.