« A Fresh Look at Mental Health for Men | Main | The First Casualty »

The Power of Good People

With special guest:

  • Para Paheer

Para Paheer was five years old when civil war between Tamils and the Sinhalese government started in Sri Lanka and continued for the next twenty six years. At the time Para did not know that the causes went back to 1830 when the Tamil people were imported to Sri Lanka to work on the plantations in conditions that were not far off slavery. Para had spent his childhood in poverty by Australian standards but when the war began conditions got even harder. Survival required courage, ingenuity and in Para’s case the kindness of strangers.

The inspiring part of Para’s story, as told in The Power of Good People: Surviving the Sri Lankan Civil War, is that he describes accurately and fully some of the horrors he witnessed and experienced personally yet he can focus his attention on the good things that people he has met along the way have done for him and his family.

Para suffered torture and imprisonment because of his support for human rights causes when he was a university student but was lucky to still be alive. Recognising this he had to make the most difficult decision of his life. He could continue to risk torture and death from government forces searching for him or he could raise money from everyone he knew and put his life in the hands of people smugglers. After discussing the choices with his wife, Para decided he should set off alone with the hope of a better life for his family in Australia.

Para could not swim but through the help of a friend on board he survived the sinking of SIEV69 and was in the water for over 10 hours before he was rescued. Not all his fellow passengers survived.

Para’s wife was told that Para had died which was not far from the truth. However the Master of a tanker called the LNV Pioneer, Captain Brzica, followed the law of the sea and rescued as many of the refugees as possible.

It was still not over for Para who spent two years in mandatory detention on Christmas Island. It would be eight years before he would be able to see his wife and son, now aged 10, again.

Para is now safe and in January 2017 became an Australian citizen. He has finally reunited with his wife and son and has acquired further qualifications in Australia. He works at a hospital in the Intensive Care Department and at night in an aged care facility. Para has only recently been able to thank Captain Brzica personally and by way of his book he thanks all of his other benefactors including most importantly his co-author and sponsor from Apollo Bay in Victoria, Alison Corke.

This is a fascinating and important story for those interested in Australia’s migration policy. It is told directly and openly by someone directly affected and it will without doubt have a big impression on all who listen. Do not miss Para’s story.

Para Paheer

Para Paheer was born in the Tamil occupied section of Sri Lanka. After living in poverty as a child he was able to attend university through the sacrifices of his family. Para graduated from University with an Honours degree but became a victim of the civil war in Sri Lanka. Para was tortured and imprisoned before deciding to attempt escape to Australia. He survived war, poverty, genocide, shipwreck and life in a refugee camp so that now he is able to contribute to his new country. The most important thing for Para is to be grateful for his many escapes and to thank all those who helped him along the way. Para lives near Melbourne with his wife and 10 year old son.

Song selection by our guest: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel

Listen Now (mp3)

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend