Mental illness is the number one reason that people in Australian immigration detention present to hospital for treatment.
From her kitchen table in Central Victoria, Janet Galbraith coordinates an online writing group called Writing Through Fences, where around 100 asylum seekers share their writing and poetry on Facebook.
The group has become a community that cares for each other’s mental health across oceans and through fences.
The group began almost by accident in 2013.
Janet Gailbraith is a long time writer, poet, and visitor of people in Melbourne detention centres. She read a poem on Facebook by a young woman named Halhal, who was in detention. Janet and Halhal exchanged poems and soon other people in detention started sending their poems to Janet.
The Writing Through Fences group encompasses onshore and offshore detention centres in the Australian immigration system, people on bridging visas and in community detention, and asylum seekers in detention in Indonesia and Israel.
Writing Through Fences is a writing group that has grown into a community. “It’s like a family,” says Janet. “We’ve come to know each other through our writing, and people take a lot of care of each other.
She believes that the relationships formed around writing are keeping people in the group alive. “Through relationship, people are able to continue.”
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