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Doumentary - Humanities

DVD: Available Now
Consumer Advice:

Themes of Tragedy

Run Time:
104 minutes

English (some Arabic)


Steve Thomas, Sue Brooks


Amal Basry

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Now available to watch on beamafilm


Extra Scenes & Interviews; In Memory of the SIEV X; Study Guide; Trailer



Four hundred asylum seekers were pitched into the sea when their people-smuggling boat from Indonesia sank on its way to Australia in 2001. Three hundred and fifty three people drowned. Only seven survivors made it to Australia.

Amal Basry was one of those survivors, spending 22 hours in the ocean hanging on to a floating corpse, convinced that her son was dead and she was the only person left alive. Acclaimed documentary maker Steve Thomas records her life story as she fights to ensure that the disaster is not forgotten, to reunite her family and ‘find what it was I lost in the ocean’...

Hope is an inspirational tale of family, and the search for a better life in Australia.

Amal Basry watched 'The Titanic' at a cinema in Baghdad the night before she fled Iraq. 18 months later the people smuggling boat she was on sank between Indonesia and Australia. Amal survived by clinging to the floating body of a dead woman for 22 hours. Now Amal fights to ensure that the disaster is not forgotten, to reunite her family and to 'find what it was I lost in the ocean'.

On 18 October 2001, a wooden fishing boat departed from Bandar Lampung, Indonesia. The passengers, mostly refugees from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, were in search of somewhere safe to live. The Australian Government’s introduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) in 1999 had ruled out family reunions for onshore refugees. TPVs created a new market for people smugglers – the women and children who were desperate to be reunited with husbands and fathers. In the time honoured tradition of this kind of migration, the men had set out ahead of their families intending to send for them once they had been granted asylum. This is why the SIEV-X was crowded with women and children. At approximately 3pm on 19 October 2001, the boat began to sink in international waters inside the Australian aerial border protection surveillancezone. The Australian Government still denies that this was the case. It was not until the next day that an Indonesian fishing boat rescued forty-four survivors. They were taken to Jakarta but refused to disembark until UN officials arrived. The survivors feared for their lives given the well-established rumours that Indonesian authorities were working hand in glove with the people smugglers. Another survivor was rescued later bringing the total number of survivors to forty-five. Public debate in Australia at the time of the sinking of the SIEV-X, named boat people as ‘queue jumpers’ who were evading the Australian Government’s selection process. Days after the disaster, when the story was reportedby the Australian media, then Prime Minister John Howard stated that the disaster had nothing to do with Australia because the boat sank in ‘Indonesian waters’.
A report presented to Parliament in early 2002, did not find considerable flaws in the government’s response to SIEV-X. The report did recommend an investigation into the government’s disruption activities, expressed surprise that the failure to spot the SIEV-X had not resulted in any reviews of intelligence procedures and called for a renewed prioritization on the safety of lives at sea. Some believe that the accident was caused by ruthless people smugglers, who wanted to maximize profits by disregarding the boat’s load limit. Then there are those who argue that the boat was deliberately sabotaged to deter the people smuggling trade from Indonesia to Australia. While this theory is only speculation, at the time of the incident the Australian Government, with the assistance of special units of Indonesian police, had initiated a covert disruption program to target Indonesian people smugglers. There is no proven link between this program and the sinking of the SIEV-X. Six years after the SIEV-X tragedy, the Australian Government still refuses to release the names of the victims, arguing that to do so may compromise intelligence sources.


Some stories shake a nation. Others slip away Katherine Kizilios THE AGE

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