Booker Prize winner aims to humanise asylum seekers

ENLIGHTENED APPROACH: Booker Prize-winning author and National Living Treasure Thomas Keneally launches A Country Too Far, a book he co-edited with Rosie Scott (left), at Buderim Tavern.
ENLIGHTENED APPROACH: Booker Prize-winning author and National Living Treasure Thomas Keneally launches A Country Too Far, a book he co-edited with Rosie Scott (left), at Buderim Tavern. Iain Curry

PRESENTING the human side of asylum seekers is key to challenging Australian perceptions about refugees.

That's the view of Booker Prize-winning author Thomas Keneally, who blames government lies for the community's misunderstanding of asylum seekers.

The National Living Treasure and author of more than 40 novels and non-fiction works was in Buderim yesterday to launch A Country Too Far, an anthology he co-edited with Sydney writer Rosie Scott.

"With so much lying about them (asylum seekers) from successive governments, it's hard for people to see that human face," Mr Keneally said.

The author, who won the Booker Prize for his 1982 novel Schindler's Ark, said he and Ms Scott had approached Australian writers to bring a new perspective of depth and truthfulness to situation.

"Rosie and I, like many Australians, know asylum seekers and what they're fleeing from," he said.

"But many just consider them a nuisance, or we're encouraged to, and nobody has a kind word to say about them."

The book contains a collection of fiction, memoirs, poetry and essays on the subject, written by 27 of Australia's most distinguished novelists, poets and thinkers.

Mr Keneally said he hoped A Country Too Far would not only help present the human side of the dispossessed, but also stop Australians deriding asylum seekers or calling them "illegals".

He said he believed Australia's current methods of addressing the asylum-seeking issue were wrong.

"It's a denial of the reality. They're going to come and keep coming until a positive solution is found," he said.

"It seems after World War Two there were as many displaced persons as there are refugees now, and through international solutions we were able to get them placed around the world.

"We must do something like that now."

The book's launch at Buderim Tavern also acted as a fundraiser for the Coast-based Buddies Refugee Support Group, with proceeds donated to the Multicultural Development Association.

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