NMA collection record

'UnAustralia' cartoon by Fiona Katauskas, New Matilda, 2005


This colour cartoon by Fiona Katauskas is a reaction to an incident in August 2001 in which Afghan asylum seekers rescued at sea by the MV Tampa were denied entry to Australia. The cartoon shows a dilapidated ship crowded with asylum seekers approaching a pier where an elderly woman stands with outstretched arms, saying: 'I KNOW IT'S EXTREMELY UNAUSTRALIAN OF ME, BUT I'D LIKE TO WELCOME YOU TO OUR SHORES ...' The cartoon first appeared on the New Matilda website on 17 September 2001. Further information is available for this resource.

Educational value

Fiona Katauskas is a freelance cartoonist whose work has been published in the Bulletin, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Australian Financial Review, Chaser News and a range of other publications.

On Sunday 26 August 2001, the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa responded to an Australian Coastal Surveillance alert that a boat was sinking 140 km north of Australia's west coast. The Afghan asylum seekers on board had journeyed to Indonesia and then tried to sail to Australia. The Tampa rescued the sinking boat's 460 passengers, and then sought permission to land them on the Australian territory of Christmas Island. The then Australian prime minister, John Howard, refused the request. He said that the asylum seekers should go to Indonesia because they were rescued in Indonesian waters or that the Tampa could take them to Norway.

The Tampa incident led to the implementation of the 'Pacific solution', the system by which asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Iran, were sent to detention centres that were established on Christmas Island, Nauru and the Papua New Guinea island of Manus. The system was dismantled after the defeat of the coalition government in December of 2007.

Political cartoons have a long history in Australia and remain one of the most popular forms of political commentary. Although caricatures and satirical illustrations appeared in some of Australia's earliest newspapers, it was not until the 1830s that they became a frequent and respectable feature of print media. Publications such as the Melbourne Punch, the Sydney Punch and the Bulletin featured both caricatures and cartoons, and it was through these publications that political cartoons became a popular element of the Australian press.

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