Mary meets Mohammed is a film that touches on the incredibly controversial topic of asylum seekers, a topic that has divided Australia, caused heated arguments at the dinner table and the office water cooler, a topic that has become the political hot potato of the 21st century.
Labor's reappointed leader, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has just announced Australia will not process any person arriving by boat for the next 12 months. Rather, it's signed a deal to send boat arrivals to our nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea. I was driving along the Stuart Highway when I heard the news. I gasped.
I'm still coming to grips with the complexities of the issue. As a journalist, I've been trained to consider all sides of an argument. Yet rooted in my exploration of this explosive issue is an unshakable sense of a chilling of Australia's once warm heart. How did the "lucky country" become so cold-hearted? I only heard statistics the other day that said boat arrivals remain fewer in number than those coming to our shores in the 1970s, a time when the then Prime Minister Malcom Fraser offered a safe refuge.
Yet successive governments and oppositions would have us believe otherwise, with slogans like "failed border protection", "stop the boats" and "turn back the boats". Which is why a film that puts a personal face to a controversial issue is so important. Mary meets Mohammed appears as a passion project with its producers raising production funds from donations through the marvellous Australian Documentary Foundation. It's being screened in Darwin next Thursday July 25 at Browns Mart at 6pm as a Red Cross fundraiser. I also hope it gets a broadcast across Australia soon.