Ali, aged 7, was in MITRE immigration detention centre with his older brother, his mother and his father. While in the centre, his father suffered from depression, and the family experienced a very typical experience for those in detention: a breakdown of family roles, where children are left feeling responsible for the wellbeing of their parents. Ali’s older brother, aged 14, felt responsible for keeping the family together, a burden that made him age faster than other boys of his age. In detention, Ali was bored, bored bored. He did not play with the other children. He spent all his time crying. he said «I want to get out» over and over and over again.


After 7 months, Ali and his family were released into Community Detention while still waiting to resolve their immigration status. Here they lived in a regular house, in a regular suburb, and Ali and his brother got to go to a regular school.  Ali found school difficult as he had to speak English all the time, but he enjoyed very much getting to play soccer with his friends at school.

Ali got to know the local people living near his house; Graham who worked at the supermarket, Jerry who worked at the newsagency and his favourite was his neighbour Mrs Jones who had a brown dog with very lovely eyes. Their family had to be in the house every evening and report to services over the landline that they were in the house. The family had a case managers as the main focal point of contact for those in this program.


Artwork by Filippa Edghill