Moving Truths: Elizabeth Kuiper
The Moving Truths series showcases pieces of writing by Faculty of Arts students on the topic of Global Migration.
In 2019, the Faculty of Arts ran a writing competition related to ‘Hard Truths’, an exhibition of prize-winning photography from The New York Times. Students wrote creative and journalistic pieces responding to the following questions: 'What has your life experience and the experience of those around you taught you about global migration? What needs to change?' Moving Truths, a new online series, showcases student entries from the competition, alongside profiles of each student author. Explore Moving Truths to learn more about our global community and discover the powerful stories our students have to tell.
Bachelor of Arts graduate and current Juris Doctor candidate Elizabeth Kuiper wrote a piece called "By Plane," exploring her family's own immigration from Zimbabwe to Australia - and the discrimination immigrants face when arriving by sea instead of by air. Get to know a bit more about Elizabeth, below, and scroll down to read her competition entry. To read more by Elizabeth you can also check out her novel, Little Stones (University of Queensland Press, 2019).
Five Quick Questions with Elizabeth
Where would you like to travel? "I haven’t seen much of Northern Africa, so I’d really like to go there – Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nigeria to start."
Of the places you've lived, which is your favourite? "I grew up in Zimbabwe and had some of my most formative experiences there. So, when I feel nostalgic about my childhood, it’s deeply connected to a sense of place. However, I fell in love with Melbourne and feel so privileged to be able to call it home."
Who or what inspires you? "One person I am often inspired by is Nyadol Nyuon, particularly with regard to her incredible advocacy for refugees."
What are you studying or working on right now? "Tax law – specifically, capital gains provisions (which is a lot sexier than it sounds!)"
How are you coping during the COVID-19 lockdown? "I feel grateful that I’m still at uni and have readings to do and assessments to prepare for. The mild day-to-day stress helps take my mind off the much more substantial stressors. Lindt Sea Salt chocolate also helps."
"By Plane" by Elizabeth Kuiper
We left because of the petrol queues and power cuts and the empty supermarket shelves.
We left because my grandparents’ tobacco farm was taken over by the War Veterans.
We left because, when I was eight years old, three men with knives broke into our home and took everything worth taking. When I was nine, history repeated itself. That time, I held kitchen tea-towels to a friend’s head – he’d been hit with the back end of a hammer – to control the bleeding.
But I was lucky.
We left by plane from Harare airport. I cried as I clutched a Goodbye card plastered with Guineafowl feathers and glitter. My mum and I touched down in Perth and, within weeks, I had a new home, a new school and new friends. English was my favourite subject; I excelled in the class spelling tests. I joined the netball team. I blended in with the sea of students in tartan skirts with white blouses and white ribbons and white skin.
Since then, I’ve openly criticised the federal government. I’ve received taxpayer-funded medical care and education. At 17, I’d sneak into public parks to drink goon straight out the cask. At any given time, I could’ve been labelled an agitator, a sponge or a delinquent. But I wasn’t. And not a single person during my fourteen years in this country has once told me to go back to where I came from.
The house parties I attended growing up were kids being kids. The house parties hosted by Sudanese teenagers in Melbourne were evidence of AFRICAN GANGS DESTROYING NEIGHBOURHOODS (or some similar Channel 7 chyron).
Australians do not fear migrants; I am a migrant. They fear black and brown people. They fear Muslim people; scared that a Halal certification for Vegemite is a tiptoe away from Sharia law. Colonial settler privilege is lamenting a swarm of immigrants that seek to threaten our way of life while bulldozing the Djap Wurrung trees for a highway extension.
Immigrating to Australia provided me with an abundance of opportunities that would never have materialised had I stayed in Zimbabwe. I’m halfway through a postgraduate law degree. In June last year, a novel I wrote hit the shelves of Australian bookstores. I am lucky.
I’ve volunteered at Refugee Legal and listened to clients share their stories, sparing no detail because this may be the first time in years that they feel their voice is being heard. I’ve learnt that to qualify as a refugee, under s 5H of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), you must possess a well-founded fear of persecution. The Act is, of course, referring to persecution from the asylum seeker’s homeland, not that which they will receive at the hands of Australian immigration officials.
My experience of migration has been marked by privilege; white privilege, class privilege and the privilege of education. My life would not look the same if I came by boat and not by plane.