"...and where's my f#cking welcome drink I was promised?!"

Quite possibly the most intense and important hour of television we’ve seen this year – in fact, for a long time. Episode 1 of Go Back To Where You Came From offered rare insight into the opinions of a very broad cross-section of Australia in 6 spectacularly cast participants as they embarked on their own journey of understanding and experience through a reverse-refugee journey.

From the opening titles Go Back was always going to be controversial, yet it manages to accept that those participating and those watching all come with pre-concieved ideas with regard to boat people and cuts a gentle and disturbingly shadowy swathe through it and straight to the heart of the issue – what is the experience of those that come to Australia seeking asylum and what prompts them to undertake what is often a most dangerous and horriffic journey in the first place?

The participants are:

  • Raye, retired social worker from country SA, 63
  • Roderick, aspiring politician from Brisbane, 29
  • Raquel, unemployed from western Sydney, 21
  • Darren, businessman from Adelaide, 42
  • Gleny-Rae, singer from Newcastle, 39
  • Adam, Cronulla lifeguard, 26

The puppet-master amidst all this is Dr David Corlett – refugee expert and Melbourne academic. His job is to lead the participants through the process without revealing much of anything. Just like what an actual refugee would experience.

It becomes very clear very quickly that theĀ groupĀ had entirely no idea what they were entering into. Having their mobile phones, wallets and passports taken from them and then told they’d not be keeping in touch with their families for the next 28 days shocked them. “Devastated.” And they’d barely started.

Half the team being sent to Albury (Raquel outs herself as failing domestic geography at this point), the other half going to Liverpool in Sydney’s west and all are being connected with refugees and past asylum seekers who’ve already completed the journey and are settling into Australia. All of the new Australians have near horror stories to tell of their past and/or their journey, and some of them still have family in the countries they fled.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship...

While exposing the participants to these stories softened some (and not others), the realisation that they would be undertaking the reverse journey of a refugee by then stepping onto what looked to be the Indonesian fishing boat from hell, after having had their remaining posessions taken from them, surely would have helped them understand that this was not going to be a “normal” show.

If you’ve not seen the episode, check it out here. It’s amazing viewing. Compelling drama mixed with real reaction to external stimulus prodding and promoting conflict with the participant’s incumbent views. There are two more episodes of this to air, and they get even more incredible and challenging – make sure you tune in.

Twitter exploded – in the 10 minutes after the show finished on the East Coast nearly 1,300 people sent almost 2,000 tweets. The hashtag #GoBackSBS trended number one worldwide for the time the show was on air. Many people were shocked at the stories, others aghast at the attitudes of the participants, and more still expressed concern or regret that as a nation Australia still doesn’t have a better solution for those desperate to come to this country (most in fear for their life). The saddest realisation by almost the entire twittersphere was that those that needed to be seeing Go Back were probably not watching.


Go Back To Where You Came From – Tonight & Thu 23/06 8:30pm, SBS one.