Lilu & Bey

A toy cat made from denim and orange retro print fabric.
Ginny the Clever Cat

Today, I thought I’d write about a little sewing enterprise of mine. I know what you’re thinking – “not another sewing blogger monetising their blog! Soon she’ll be announcing her exciting collaboration with Sprout Patterns”. Don’t worry, Lilu & Bey is something entirely different.

Some years ago, my friend Beth started a business called Lilu & Bey, where she sold beautiful, Tilda-style handsewn softies. When her second child was born, her business was put to the side – until 2014, when she reopened Lilu & Bey with the intention of raising money for UNHCR for Australia (the Australian branch of the United Nations Refugee Agency). I offered to sew a few aprons to help out, and soon found myself deluged in my own handmade aprons, accessories and softies – toy-making is just that addictive.

A yellow and white spotted toy dachshund.
Rupert the Happy Dachshund

Beth and I are childhood friends – you might have seen the clothes I’ve sewn for her own children on this blog. We often have conversations about the inhumanity of the Australian government’s refugee policy of indefinite detention, and express our desire to effect positive change for refugees. I do not intend to turn this into a political blog. But the personal is political, and to explain how Lilu & Bey began (again), I must also explain a little about Australia’s refugee policy.*

Content warning: following contains mention of suicide, abuse and politics

Australia maintains one of the world’s most restrictive immigration detention systems. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Australia are immediately transferred to indefinite, offshore detention, in an attempt by the Australian government to escape their obligations under international law. The conditions are “unsafe and inhumane”, according to the UNHCR, and claims go unprocessed. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat have no chance of being settled in Australia.

A toy whale.
Wallace the Whale

This is a separate issue to the refugee crisis sweeping the world – one which began in the 90s with the Keating and Howard governments, and is in numbers disproportionate to the rest of the world. Despite Australia receiving relatively few boat arrivals, the panic surrounding “boat people” has made harsh refugee management a widely supported policy of both major parties.

I find it difficult to stand idly by while consecutive Australian governments commit gross human rights breaches, including their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on Refugees. Australia is a spacious, wealthy country, with “boundless plains to share”, as our anthem proclaims. That such a vulnerable, tiny population would be subject to what Amnesty International classes as torture just so they cannot share in our riches is hardly consistent with our national ethos of a “fair go”.

An illustration by a child. Shows a girl's face behind bars, crying red tears.
A self-portrait drawn by a child in detention. The current Aus government claimed they had removed all children from detention in April 2016 – up to this time, children were detained offshore along with adults. There is some evidence that some children remain in detention, but as the government refuses to disclose figures or allow reporters in detention, it is difficult for media outlets to discern the truth. Source

It is deeply disturbing that what began as an aberrance has become a model. Australia’s harsh refugee policies have found favour with Neo-Nazis in Germany, and the current Australian government supports the US ban on immigration. Discriminatory immigration policies which may seem novel to the rest of the world have been practiced in Australia for years.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton. Light illuminates only the upper part of his head in a creepy effect.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who is definitely not evil. (Not photoshopped.)

 

So Beth and I channel our pain, our frustration, and our love for those in detention into Lilu & Bey.

When I sew toys for Lilu & Bey, I sew them for Reza Berati, the 23-year-old Iranian man who was beaten to death in riots led by detention guards, PNG nationals and police. I sew them for Hamid Kehazaei who died from a cut to his foot, after being denied life saving medical intervention. I sew them for those we have lost to suicide in detention, and for those who are currently being denied a home on the basis of their religion or the colour of their skin.

A drawing / ink work of a stylised flamingo.
Art print by Beth

 

Beth and I have been pleased beyond our expectations by the money we have raised, and humbled by the support of our friends, family and customers. It is heartening to know there are others who are so willing to offer their love to those who have so little. It is my hope that the kindness and open-heartedness of Australians, and indeed all peoples, prevails over the cruelty of those who would be willing to make innocent people pawns in their political games.

Two toy birds.
Birds on a wire

You can find Lilu & Bey on Facebook, our website (not as frequently updated) and Instagram. We have stock at The Goodness Bureau in Thornbury and Enique Eco Store in Warrnambool. If you are concerned about the status of refugees, whether in detention in Australia or worldwide, I would urge you to support UNHCR (Australian or worldwide) or any refugee agency.

 

NOTE: there is an urgent situation on Nauru, where a pregnant refugee who suffers from pre-eclampsia is at risk of death because the Australian government refuses to transfer her to the mainland for adequate medical care. Doctors insist she needs an emergency C-section performed in Australia to save her life, yet the government refuses to release her from detention. This situation is CRITICAL – please call and message your local representatives if possible.

 

*This is a very simplistic explanation of Australia’s refugee policy. The actual history and current situation is more complex than I have space for here, starting with the White Australia immigration policy of 1901-1974. If you are interested in learning more, SBS has a good overview of recent history, and Amnesty International’s publications have more in-depth reports of the current situation in detention centres. The Monthly’s “Why Australia Hates Asylum Seekers” explains the deep roots of Australia’s racism and xenophobia – and the fact that many Australians still genuinely fear foreign invasion is telling.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

10 thoughts on “Lilu & Bey”

  1. 😰 😢 😥🤤 😭
    I can’t even put words to how I feel about this, and there aren’t enough emojis in the world. I heard on the radio this morning that your PM won’t comment on the Muslim Ban. It’s so sad that a country that has as much cool stuff going on as Ausi does this. It’s sickened me for years.
    As far as getting political, I read this great quote yesterday:
    “Remember sitting in history, thinking: ‘If I was alive then, I would’ve…’
    You’re alive now. Whatever you’re doing is what you would’ve done.” – David Slack
    As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to get political.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw that quote on Facebook yesterday and it could not be more true. This post started as apolitical but the time for that is over. NZ is so much more progressive than Aus on refugees and it makes me weep that we could not display the same humanity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. NZ has so far to go too though. And we have a very partisan PM at the moment, strong centre right. He’s going to need to put his big boy pants on if this international BS continues. It’s a sad time for humanity.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t agree more. It’s despicable that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t standing up to Trump. Scott Morrison is even worse with his comment yesterday that the US is just catching up to our hardline policies. What a lovely thing you’re doing and what beautiful softies.

    Like

    1. I guess the current Australian government realise they don’t have a leg to stand on if they criticise US policy. After all, we’ve been mistreating refugees for decades. Look at the way Bill Shorten was (deservedly) torn to shreds for opposing Trump but supporting indefinite detention! I certainly have a lot of thoughts about the performance of ScoMo and Peter Dutton as immigration ministers, none of them fit to print.

      Liked by 1 person

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