Across the Void: Behrouz Boochani

Across the Void: Behrouz Boochani


When the Australian immigration department incarcerated Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist fleeing the oppressive Islamic regime in Iran, they made a huge tactical error.

Seasoned at fighting human rights abuses in his home country Boochani has continued inside the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

He’s not the only voice speaking out from inside this prison like facility but he is one of the loudest.

Voices like his will be part of what brings this unjust, unfair system to its knees.

His writing has featured in major newspapers in Australia, and around the world, and is opening up the gates of this prison and exposing the human rights abuses occurring inside.

After several failed attempts I finally managed to record an interview with Behrouz, coincidentally just when he announced he had shot and co directed a film from inside Manus – ‘‘Chauka, please tell us the time’.

This interview was recorded by using Skype from my computer to ring Behrouz’s mobile. Due to this occasionally there’s some odd bleeps and bloops.



The Chauka bird of Manus Island.
The Chauka bird of Manus Island.

A review of Chauka, please tell us the time.

By Arnold Zable.

‘Chauka, please tell us the time’ is a remarkable film,’ shot on a mobile phone, in restricted and distressing circumstances by Kurdish-Iranian journalist and writer, Behrouz Boochani.

Incarcerated since mid-2013 in the Manus Island Detention Centre, Boochani co-directs the film with Amsterdam based Iranian filmmaker and editor, Arash Kamali Sarvestani.

Far removed from the action, Sarvestani, honours Boochani’s vision, and works with him, across a vast distance, to create a poetic, hypnotic film, which is both a work of great artistry, and a damning inditement of a brutal policy.

At the heart of the film, the central thread around which all the others are woven—is the chauka, a bird that is sacred and central to Manus Island culture.

The camera roams through the centre, and beyond, and conveys the torturous ordeal endured by the 900 men, incarcerated in the prime of their life, for over 40 months now, endlessly waiting, aimlessly pacing, enduring the heat, the erosion of hope, and destruction of the spirit.

The many visual and aural threads include tense phone-calls back home, hinting at family breakdown and the unbearable pain of separation: ‘I am parted from my child,’ one asylum seeker laments in his three-minute weekly call. Referring to a child born after he fled his country, a detainee says: ‘I haven’t had a chance to hold him, touch him or feel his presence’.

We hear the incessant whirring of fans, the dentist-like drill of the fumigation apparatus. We witness the wasted lives of men, their loss of agency: ‘I have no control over this’, says one. ‘Look mum, please don’t cry. Please don’t cry. Look mum, I am stuck here’, pleads another.

Boochani’s mobile phone pans over the cramped living spaces and the tiny cubicles, partitioned by sheets and tarpaulins to create a fragile and claustrophobic privacy.

We hear the comments of broken spirits: ’I prefer to be dead because I have nothing anymore… no one is waiting for me, and I am waiting for no one. I have lost everything.’

There are startling, poetic surreal-like images—rows of empty white plastic chairs leaning against the wire through which can be seen the unobtainable sea; the exuberant, beautiful faces of Manus Island children, dancing just beyond the wire, images of cats, contrastingly free, at home in any space within and without the wire.

The soundtrack compliments the imagery—with two recurring sounds in particular—a haunting Kurdish folksong, sung by one of the inmates, and the chirping of the chauka bird.

The folksong is a lament, a cry of longing, and the birdsong, a homage to Manus Island culture. The theme of the Chauka, and what it symbolises is a brilliant conception.

Through an ongoing conversation with several Manus Island men, we begin to understand the deep significance of the bird, and the ongoing colonial history of the island.

We come to see the cruel irony—the name of a bird that means so much in Manus Island culture, being used as the name for a high security prison within the wider prison, which, for a time, was a place of isolation, and punishment.

We come to understand that the appropriation of the Chauka, as a name for a place of such abuse and suffering, is obscene, and reflective of the neo-colonial system on which the offshore detention system is based.

Also interwoven is an eye witness account of the murder of Reza Barati in February 2014, and eerie footage of a detainee, who at the end of his tether, has self harmed, and is carried, at night, to an ambulance.

The mesmerising rhythm, the recurring imagery, the glimpses of Manus Island culture, the bird song, the sound of the sea, and the intermittent silences, have a powerful cumulative effect.

When we briefly see, at film’s end, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull trying to justify the brutal policy for which his government is responsible, he is condemned by his own words.

He tries in vain to justify the horror, and is revealed as a man in self-denial, representing a government that is, at best, in self denial.

Boochani’s inclusive vision is enhanced by the respect he shows for the Manus Islanders. The mobile phone camera lingers on scenes of island life and culture.

Boochani allows the voices of Manus islanders to be heard. The people of the island are stuck in a terrible dilemma, co opted into the offshore processing system through their desperate need for work.

They are on a lower rung in the camp hierarchy, with the Australian government firmly established at the apex.
Chauka please tell me the time’ is driven by a unique, poetic vision. It is filmed by a man who has an eye for life’s beauty, but also deeply feels its injustices, and cruelties—a man who has personally suffered these injustices.

Boochani is at heart an artist, who works intuitively, and instinctually. He, and his distant partner, Arash Kamali Sarvestani, allow the images, the sounds, the snatches of conversation, to speak for themselves.

They transcend the severe limitations of the circumstances under which the film was shot, to give us a glimpse of hell, juxtaposed against the island’s tropical beauty and fragments of its indigenous culture.

They have documented a specific time and place, and helped expose the horror that is indefinite offshore detention, whilst remaining true to the paradoxical beauty of their art-form, and their deeply humanistic vision of life.

Radical Equal Love

Radical Equal Love


The issue of marriage equality is in focus around the world. In Australia the big news recently is that the plebiscite which the ruling Liberal party was seeking to hold has been halted after the opposition Labor party voted against it.

A rally was still held in Brisbane on October 15 at Queens Park. It was attended by over 1000 people.

There was mainstream media coverage of the protest of course, but to find out what really happened I spoke to two eminent Brisbane gay personalities.

What follows is a low down honest account of the various high and low lights of the event.

I was lucky enough to catch ‘Power Gays’ Daniel Johnson and Mark Ashenden in my lounge-room and record this interview.


One of the issues which arose in this controversial interview is the de radicalisation of queer communities.

This is an issue which Autonomous Action Radio has tackled before when Anna Kissed halted the Pride march in 2015, to protest police joining the march.

Around the world queers are bashing back resisting the ‘pink washing‘ of their communities.


Crossing the Void: A call to Nauru


The Australian Government has done its best to silence the voice of refugees who have arrived by boat. They have isolated them on remote islands and tried to rob them of their humanity.

Thanks to technology these people are able to break through the barrier and use their voices to cross the void.

I spoke to Arash a refugee from Iran. He is living in Nauru in a detention centre. He sleeps in a tent with somewhere between 30 and 40 people.

He left Iran because of the strict Islamic government… he came to Australia searching for a place he could build his future in a country of freedom.




First Hand Insight of Australia’s Brutal Refugee Centres


Navven Nave Ravi  journeyed to Australia seeking refuge from the trouble in Sri Lanka.

Upon arriving in Australia he found that this wealthy generally safe country was not going to provide him with the peaceful life he so badly yearned for and needed.

Drawing and writing poetry was an outlet for Navven while he spent 3 years at Nauru Regional Processing Centre and in Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation.

Now living in Perth these drawings and the poetry have given him an opportunity to share with others the painful experiences he endured in those 3 years locked up despite having committed no crime.

His book From Hell to Hell has already been launched in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and the first print run of the book has sold out.

With the help of activists a crowd funding campaign has been set up to print 1000 more books.

On Monday April 18 I spoke to Navven on 4ZZZ’s AnarchyShow.




Dr Richard Kidd is co-founder of Doctors for Refugees, He spoke at Stand Up for Refugees rally which was held in Brisbane as part of a National Day of Action.

As a doctor who works with refugees in Australia, because of the Border Force Act he is risking 2 years jail by speaking out.

I interviewed him during the Rally. He speaks to me about the effect the Border Force Act has had on Doctors, the difficulties doctors have treating patients in detention, children in detention and the work of Doctors for Refugees.



First up on this show is a mention of the uprising in Turkey but the rest of the show is dedicated to the Freedom Flotilla which is traveling from Lake Eyre in the center of Australia North East to West Papua.

The journey is aiming to draw attention to the continued oppression of the West Papuan people by Indonesia and to reconnect the ancient cultures of the indigenous people of the two countries.

We speak with amazing activist and musician Izzy Brown (Combat Wombat) who this year also completed the United Struggle Project and you can hear some of those songs during the show.

Nikky Stott host of Earth Matters on 3CR Melbourne and Brisbane activist and musician Andy Paine are also in the studio.


Download from Radio4all




On this weeks shows we continue on with the Anarchist/Activist Alphabet and we’re still looking at F … F is a fucking good letter and I keep thinking of topics starting with F so we’re stuck on F…  Feminsm, Freedom, Fire, File Sharing, and Five Finger Discount which was the topic of the last show. F can also be for Food Not Bombs and the closely related topic Freeganism… so that’s what we’re going to be looking at later in the show but first of all the latest sedition of It’s the End of the World as We Know it and I feel Fine!


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1. Police don’t like F words. Police don’t like the word Fuck either… well they use it themselves but they generally don’t like it when a member of the public uses it near them… however a Queensland man who was arrested for telling an officer to fuck off had his case dismissed by a magistrate who says “It’s not the most polite way of speaking but those who walk the beat would be quiet immune to the words.”

2. It’s the End of the World as we Know it and I feel Fine!

Abolish the Police

3. F is for Food Not Bombs and Freeganism

4. Wave interviewed the man behind the Formidable Vegetable Sound System… Charlie Mgee who developed what is said to be the world’s first permaculture concept album which has now turned into a stage show and is traveling the world….


Bedding Music: Welcome Clarity -Unisonic Ascension

Combat Wombat Police Brutality

Police by J Scribe and VersaKylie 

Police State by The Great Shame

The Chumbawamba ABCs of Anarchism comes from Pop Defect Radios Tribute to them.

Look Around by Formidable Vegetable Sound System.

Formidable Vegetable Sound System