Andrew Jackson ‘Went Back To Where They Came From’, And Had A Road To Damascus Conversion Along The Way


Andrew Jackson, a self-described conservative and a participant in SBS Television’s ‘Go Back Where You Came From’ 2015 series speaks out about refugees, and his change of heart.

Here are some thoughts from someone of the right. Someone who had always voted Liberal, and supported John Howard’s policies on asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Only through participating on SBS Television’s series ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ did I realise my mistaken logic. It has taken me 12 months to analyse my thoughts and feelings and work out why I believed what I did. While these are my personal thoughts, I believe they apply to many of the right who aren’t obviously racist or evil, yet still allow the excesses and inhumanity of Manus and Nauru.

We are scared of change. There appears to have been vast changes in Australia over the past 40 years. Social, economic, structural, technological, cultural and population changes. We feel we have had no say in these changes. We feel powerless to do anything about them and we feel our fears are not listened too.

andrew jackson, new matilda, go back to where you came from
Participants in the 2015 series of Go Back Where You Came From, on SBS Television. Andrew Jackson is in the pink shirt, second from the right.

Multiculturalism is one of the visible signs of this change, and it gives people a target for their anger. That anger is not rational or even realised. But it translates from multiculturalism, to immigration, to refugees, to people who arrive by boat.

All that anger and resentment trickles down to what we feel we can control.

As part of that fear of change, we fear the different. It is a normal human reaction that has been around for thousands of years. I am not saying it’s right, or any justification for our actions. But fear of the different is something deep within the human psyche. To deny it or to label someone a racist because of it does not change the fact.

It is often little things that trigger the fear. Such as passion. Australians fear passion. Western culture and historic Australian culture strives to deny passion. We praise the stoic, the stiff upper lip.

The only time you can be passionate is at the football. When we see events overseas where people are passionately demonstrating, or protesting, or chanting etc, we feel uneasy.

In the same way, we fear religion.

Australians are not overtly religious. We tick the ‘Christian’ box through habit and upbringing but we are not a religious nation. Or if we are religious, it is often very private, understated and behind closed doors.

Obvious displays of religion are unsettling. Not for what that religion contains, but for the fact people are actually passionate about something.

Islam appears quite a visual religion. Traditional dress, dietary restrictions and obvious worship highlight the religious beliefs. Orthodox Judaism brings out the same feelings. Even Christianity can.

andrew jackson, new matilda, go back to where you came from
Andrew jackson, pictured in the 2015 series of Go Back To Where You Came From.

If I am in someone’s house and they say grace, I will hesitate for a moment. At the moment, however, Islam is what we focus on.

Finally, we fear guilt. We fear the guilt that arises from realising we are in the lucky country. And we are in it by luck. We just happened to be born here.

We feel guilty because we know we have a better life than 99 per cent of the world. We feel guilty because we know we are richer than 99 per cent of the world. We feel guilty because we can’t fix the tragedies in the world. And a perfect way to remove the guilt is to blame the victim.

We create all sorts of reasons, excuses and terminology to make the act of seeking asylum the asylum seekers’ fault. We dismiss the reasons why they are seeking asylum because, to honestly acknowledge those reasons highlights how lucky we have it in Australia, and the helplessness we feel to help everybody else.

People who arrive by boat highlight that guilt. In fact, people who arrive by boat encapsulate every fear we have. They are often religious. They are desperate. They are passionate to get to safety and have a better life for them and their children. And they make us realise how good we have it in Australia compared to everywhere else in the world.

I once stated my dislike of boat people with the words that, “If they were desperate enough to get on a boat to get to Australia, what else might they be desperate enough to do once they are here”. That thoughtless, irrational, unthinking statement underlies so much of our behaviour towards asylum seekers. And it stems purely from irrational fear.

Andrew Jackson is a Melbourne-based teacher and participated in the 2015 season episodes of ABC TV's Go Back Where You Came From. Andrew joined the show opposed to refugees, and after his experience now travels the country at his own expense giving public talks about the need for a humane approach.