The good people of Young

Don’t miss Molly and Mobarak, a documentary in SBS’ excellent Storyline Australia series. It will screen on Thursday, May 6 at 8.30 pm. It is distinguished by the fact that it was initially banned last November from being shown at Parliament House. The Speaker, Neil Andrew, changed his mind, however, and the film was shown.

The story is a poignant one: Mobarak, a young Hazara man from Afghanistan, had been on a temporary protection visa (TPV) that expired in June 2003. He arrived in Australia as a boat person because, like all Hazaras, he is a refugee in danger from Afghanis committed to ethnic cleansing and the chaotic conditions of the area where his family try to live. He is now on a bridging visa and awaits the decision of the Department of Immigration.

The documentary’s director, Tom Zubrycki, got to know Mobarak and his fellow asylum seekers in the small rural town of Young in NSW, where they work in the local abattoir, which needed workers. Some of Young’s residents are welcoming, especially TAFE teacher Ann Bell, who organises local people to provide English tuition for the men, who are otherwise ineligible for this and many other benefits under the terms of their TPVs. Despite their good work ethic and willingness to adapt, the men are still targeted by racists. The manager of the abattoir finds himself in a difficult position; anything that he does for the 90 men is regarded with suspicion by Young’s racists, and he is subjected to personally libellous pamphlets and a lack of support from others in the industry. Viewers will follow his fate with interest too, and might just applaud when he takes on one of the racists inhabiting the local pub.

Mobarak has been separated from his family for three years when we first meet him. His isolation and insecurity is not hard to imagine. He is befriended by a maternal woman, Lyn and is drawn into her family circle. Lyn’s 25-year-old daughter Molly helps him get his driver’s licence. She is pretty and kind and he of course falls in love with her. But there are complications: she does not want that kind of relationship with him and he is once more bereft of this new family. The film follows this developing crisis sensitively; letting us notice the small mannerisms of rejection in the women that undercut all their gushing friendliness. Eventually Mobarak moves to Sydney, but his fate, and that of his friends, depends on something quite rare: a compassionate change of heart on the part of those who hold the lives of these young men in their hands.
Few Hazaras seem able to convince the government’s flunkies that their lives would be in danger if they were returned to Afghanistan. It seems the place is supposed to be safe now. If that is the case, our politicians should be queuing to send their children on student exchange, or perhaps to book their family holiday trip there this year. 

Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer.



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