English News — short stories
During Term 3 Year 8 English students studied the text Paper Boats; an anthology of short stories about journeys to Australia of young refugees.
Students explored the way in which language can create identity and a sense of community. As part of their assessment students were asked to draw upon the experiences, themes, views and values evident within the short stories to create their own interpretation of what such journeys must be like.
Below are three samples of student work produced for the assessment.
By Alexei Smit
Year 8 Dunstan
“GO MIGUEL! GO, GO!”
“I haven’t packed my things!”
“I DONT CARE! GO!”
I had no choice. I had to go. The boat was leaving in one minute. Mum and Dad were left; they couldn’t fit on. I heard explosions. People yelling… Babies crying… I cried… I left my parents, on the boat, but the thought of babies crying… It reminded me of my baby brother; he got shot by some stupid kid! I‑I-I can’t remember him, my brother, I can’t remember him! So much is going on… It’s too much! Now this bloody boat. I’m nine! NINE! I can imagine the ‘white life’; having a birthday in a flash house, warm, friendly, cake… my birthday present was a dead brother! Now I’m leaving home on a boat! I mean come on! I’m looking for a new home, but nowhere is safe, I have to leave.
The boat set off, it’s been already two minutes and I already feel home sick!
“CHILDREN! CHILDREN! To the back, Under 16! To the back!”
“AHHHH!” Nonstop screaming… I can’t deal with this! What’s going o-”
“BOMB HIT! BOMB HIT!”
“Start the engines! Go! Go!”
I heard screaming. I couldn’t hear the captain, just screaming. My ears rang. My heart pounded. I felt sick; my clothes were drenched. I couldn’t handle it. I felt pain, I-
“Hello? Are ye alright?”
“Ahh? Wha- What’s happening, I can’t- Where am I?”
“Hello? Can you hear me? CRAP! We lost another one, throw him overboard!”
“But sir he’s young! Try CPR!”
“NO! It’s too much work for the boat! Throw him off!”
Off. Off. The only word I heard, echoing like a haunted house… I started to regain consciousness. My eyes started to function… I‑I MADE IT! IM ALIV-
“AHHH! (Blurping) Ghhhkh!”
I felt water splash my face; I felt alive then. I opened my eyes and all I saw was blackness, like the internal void. I couldn’t breathe, if I tried I would taste sea water. My body felt cold; I thought I was alive! Instead I realised… Off. Off! My fingernails were peeled off and I heard that word again and again! I WAS THROWN OFF BOARD! I started to panic! I saw flashbacks of my brother — the blood, the gore, the brains!
“Ahh! (Gurgle) AHHH!”
All I felt were bubbles rushing out my throat, like pebbles being regurgitated! I cried, sang the song of heaven in my head, my father’s Muslim chant. I felt happy. I remembered my parents. But then, as I saw a light, I felt something warm, something slippery. Before I could rest, I felt that alive feeling! Feeling of survival, defiance of death! I felt air across my face, I felt oxygen through my lungs! I opened my eyes! I saw a blue sky, yellow hot sun, crystal sea! I was flying over ocean, so fast, so happy!
“Aye sir! He’s awake!”
“Great, looks like it was my fault!”
“I told you not to throw him!”
Off? Why do I hear that? The echoes returned, that voice… it’s the same people! I’ve just been pulled back up, I’m still on the bloody BOAT!
“AHHH! I thought I had died, I thought it was over!”
“Trust me kid, you wish you had died! It’s only been two hours!”
“WHAT!? TWO HOURS!” I thought out loud! I thought that it has been days, I thought I was rescued! I was still on that boat!
“Sorry, but how long is the estimated trip?”
“Weeks, son, lots of days!”
WEEKS!? I couldn’t handle it! We had no food, or water…
My first day in the detention centre
By Elias Fernandez
Year 8 Dunstan
My eyes shot open to the screams of a little girl. Whilst my eyes were still adjusting I could see a man in the distance hanging from the ceiling, followed by more and more screams. That was the first morning.
I continued on with my first day in detention wishing that I had not witnessed that sight. The next thing I knew, there was a riot containing one hundred very angry people threatening the guards. One man in this riot was holding a knife, my body was frozen. I wasn’t sure what to do. There were only three possible options – join, defend the guard, or be a bystander. I took the easy way out. It was a natural instinct, it’s how I survived in Afghanistan all those 18 years. I quickly grabbed some toast and ran back to my cell – the only place where I felt safe. Despite the disgusting and horrible start to the day, the only thing I was looking forward to was my first meal in four days. I took small bites of the toast and chewed each piece very slowly. It was delicious, I had ten pieces.
I took a tour of the detention centre on the lookout for some entertainment, when I came across a basketball court. It was beautiful nothing compared to the courts in Afghanistan. Back in my home country I was a pro at basketball. There were men on the other side of the court, so I grabbed a ball and took a couple of shots, when these thugs came behind me and grabbed my arms dragging me down onto the ground. What looked to be the leader of these thugs said that this is their court. I could feel the blood on my back, my legs immediately reacted and took me off the ground as did my hands. I punched one of the thugs right in the face breaking his nose, I then took off and ran. My heart was pumping a million miles per hour, my back was in pain and my knuckles were hurting. These were times where I missed my family the most and that was why I knew I had to get through this, no matter what.
I headed to the medical centre where there was a line with more than two hundred people. I left and went straight to the canteen area to receive my sandwich and then headed back to my cell. I then started crying, thinking about how I thought Australia was different, thinking that I would make a change for my family’s life. I wanted to make them the proudest of parents. I didn’t think I could make it.
I sat on my bed feeling in complete despair. I feel the exact same way I felt when I left my home country to come here, except I don’t recognise the people nor the place. I wonder what the man hanging from the ceiling felt before he made his final decision.
By Curtis Sayers
Year 8 Dunstan
An effervescent sunset dazed on the horizon. The waves crashed against the shore of the desolate island. I jumped off the bus and felt the warm orange sand at dusk. A warm breeze reminded me of home, before the war murdered the warm tranquil sunsets my family and I left behind.
As the retreating rays of light vanished beyond the final wave, I reached for my camera, the one thing I saved. I focused it on the harsh crisscross wire and barbed metal I saw before me. Click.
I stepped into a room with a flickering fluorescent globe, the flashes reminded me of gunfire. I took a seat on the bench with my family. We hugged. The uncertainty of the future burned in our minds like a bonfire, but like a bonfire, in time the flames would cease to burn. Hopefully.
A puckered faced man sitting behind scratched glass called my name. “Mohammed.” He asked for my belongings. I instantly thought about my camera, the object that carried me through the dark and horrifying times.
I remember the first photos I had taken, the stray orange cat who sat outside my window, the cool starry nights in Kabul. Then when things took a turn for the worst, I had reached for my camera once again to guide me. Pictures of the lingering dust that never seemed to settle amongst the feet of the soldiers, photos of the dark skies and the gunfire that woke me up at night. Then I had taken a photo of the ramshackle boat that was supposed to guide us to the place with greener grass, I remember that frame well.
I began to recall the photos of the mysterious ocean that tossed our boat around the waves. The faces of the worn minds that inhabited our boat. Then, of course, the naval ship that “rescued” us.
I had shot a photo of the harsh desert through the window on the bus to my new home, the detention centre. I liked the orange hue of the sand and the transparent heat lines that it carried weightlessly.
Then, as the memories flashed by my tired mind, I pulled out my camera and took my last photo. The photo that would sum up my new life. The frame that encapsulated my new inhabitancy on this lonely island full of decrepit minds and aggravated emotions, full of people torn between two minds, am I thankful for refuge or loathing the conditions?