As I've been travelling this vast country during recent months, I've thought about the freedom and choice of lifestyles we have in Australia. I imagined what it must be like to live in a place where tomorrow doesn't have the certainty we take for granted.
I wandered in my imagination to a country that had been destroyed by war. Buildings razed beyond recognition. People huddling against the rubble with a sheet of cloth protecting them from the weather. No toilet, no water, no bed, no kitchen, a couple of pots and pans, if I was lucky.
I became one of those people....
All my possessions gathered at my feet, my toddler huddled close to me for security, trusting me I will provide a meal for her. I know her belly is empty. I see hunger in her eyes. 'Please Mummy can I have something to eat?'
I pull her closer. Her skin is cold. The rag that covers her body offers no warmth.
My stomach aches. We haven't had food for over a week. My energy is low and all I want to do is lean against this wall of rubble and slip away from the poverty, but I can't. I have six children depending on me. The eldest, a daughter, who is ten years old, rummages in the bins for scraps of food, while the youngest sucks on my empty breast hoping for a drop of nourishment. But there is none.
Another daughter dawdles toward our home, searching for food her eyes full of despair. No shoes, a ragged dress that is held on her shoulder by a mere scrap of fabric, her skin caked in dirt. A son carries a small bucket. Brown liquid splashes over the sides. He slows so the liquid will be contained. There is water for us to drink...maybe. My other sons, six and eight come back empty handed. All we have for today is a cup of water each to drink. The water is dirty, but it is all we have.
The smell of death is all around me. Anguished cries of desperation reach into the human parts of me. I want to do so much for them, but I have nothing to give. I'm struggling to keep myself and my family alive.
A cold wind blows and fills my nostrils with a mixture of human excrement, decaying meat and sulphur fumes. Death is coming, too quickly. I draw my children closer. I have to get my family out of this wasteland. I must do something before the last of my energy leaves me. Bombs explode in the distance. I am powerless, but I have hope. Tomorrow will be a new day, but each tomorrow becomes the same as yesterday.
Tomorrow has come and with it comes a ray of hope. A man approaches me and says he can help us leave the torment tomorrow. He promises an education for my kids, a home, employment and a future. 'I have no money', I say. 'Why do you want to help this woman who can't pay?'
'I have a way to get you to Australia. You can pay when you find your future in Australia. I will keep a record.'
Is this my new hope? Dare I believe it to be true? What choice do I have? None. Staying means certain death for me and my children. I see others around me packing their meagre possessions. They are in search of hope and a future, just like me. I know nothing about Australia, but perhaps it is good there.
For the children I will do anything...
This is what I imagine the life of a refugee is like before they come to Australia. How can we deny these desperate people entry to our country when all they want is an opportunity to have a little of what we have?