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Refugee Week: Go Back To Where You Came From

After the success of the Australian TV documentary ‘s first series, Go Back To Where You Came From returned for a second season: Celebrity Edition. The Award-winning show, produced by Cordell Jigsaw Productions, follows a group of six prominent Australian figures as they experience a refugee’s journey first hand; in a bid to understand why people get on boats to Australia.

The unique experiment in which the six Aussies, all with opposing views on Australia’s asylum-seeker debate, were deprived of their wallets, phones and passports and split into two groups of three.

The premise of the experiment was simple. Each group was hosted by a different individual or family of refugees who are now settled in Australia, and spent time getting to know them and listening to their stories on where they came from, why they left, and the unimaginable journey they had endured to get to Australia. Then the groups embark on a life-changing journey themselves; to follow in the footsteps of their host as asylum-seekers, and ‘Go Back To Where They Came From’.

The celebrity cast of Australians included former Howard government minister Peter Reith; columnist and comedian Catherine Deveny; former shock jock Mike Smith; actor and former swimsuit model Imogen Bailey; former rocker and aspiring Liberal MP Angry Anderson; and Allan Asher, the former Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Angry Anderson, Catherine Deveny and Peter Reith were sent to Kabul in Afghanistan to retrace the journey of their Hazari host, while Allan Asher, Mike Smith and Imogen Bailey were sent to Mogadishu in Somalia where their host had fled from – 20 years before at the age of 13.  They are presented with genuinely profound danger as they tour the cities under the watchful eyes of US troops and armed escorts.

Their journey takes them across the globe; from the perilous and war-torn cities of Kabul and Mogadishu, refugee camps in Ethiopia and Indonesia, to Rote Island where they meet and interview with real people smugglers, finally finding themselves on a rickety old fishing boat in the middle of the night – bound for Christmas Island.

Peter Reith’s participation was one of particular interest. As a Howard government minister from 1996 to 2001, Reith was an architect of the Pacific Solution, a policy which ensured asylum seekers were processed offshore. In August 2001, Reith ordered Australian special forces to board a Norwegian freighter Tampa which had been denied entry to Australian waters after rescuing 438 Afghan asylum seekers from a stricken fishing boat. Two months later, Reith was embroiled in the ‘children overboard affair’ in which he repeated claims that asylum seekers threw their children over the side of their boat in order to gain entry to Australia. The claim was found to be false.

Reith stated that he took part in the series because he wanted to participate in a debate on the Labor government’s immigration policy, which he described as “one of the biggest government stuff ups of all time”.

Catherine Deveny doesn’t give Reith an easy ride, and the heated debates between them are an added bonus on top of this brilliantly executed and thought-provoking documentary.

Well worth a view.


written by Victoria Garside

Watch the Series 2 trailer here.




About Victoria Garside

Victoria Garside is a British ex pat who works in the event and staging industry based in Sydney. A keen writer and blogger, Victoria made her way from England to Australia by first cramming in a wealth of travel and adventure, which took her from the capitals of Europe through the jungles of South America, the recuperation of South-East Asia and the gut wrenching (but life changing) world as a volunteer in central Africa. The result has been a rich life experience and, in early 2013, Victoria founded Developing Worlds Online (DW Online).