I am a Tamil refugee who was in a detention centre for six and a half years.
In 2009, I left Sri Lanka on a small boat with thirty others. The journey took nearly one month – we were very seasick, and for the last two days, there was no food.
I started off on Christmas Island, and then I was moved to a detention centre in Melbourne, which was much better, because we could have visitors, and church people came so we could share our story, our pain.
In the detention centres, I started taking strong sleeping tablets. When I took the sleeping tablets, I didn’t know what time it was, what I was doing, what I was eating. Then, after being awake for three hours, I would take one again. It was good because we didn’t have to think about anything else, we were only focused on sleeping. Sometimes people saved them up and tried to kill themselves. After that, we had to show our ID, and get just one each time.
Sometimes, I still can’t sleep now because I am thinking, thinking, thinking too much. I try to forget my past life, but I can’t. One small thing brings everything back. Living in 200 square metres for 6 years – it was like being in a prison – I could see around the fence but I couldn’t go there. I can’t get those years back again. I lost my family, I lost my education, I feel like I lost my life.
A year ago, I was released into Community Detention, which means I can be free in the community, but I still don’t have any permanent visa. Now, I’m a chef with Tamil Feasts. We make a dinner for Aussies twice a week and share our stories and our culture with them. There are many, many stories – most of the chefs were in a detention centre for more than 6 years, so we have our sadnesses. But the people love our food, and I feel happier, because I see new people, and new faces, and it helps me to forget.
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