Behind Barbed Wire

Words and melody: Alistair Hulett 1996
Arranged: Miguel Heatwole 2002

Alistair Hulett was a spirited songwriter/singer commenting on contemporary political events. This song was written in response to the escalation of the government’s shameful treatment of asylum seekers following the legislation of mandatory detention for asylum seekers in 1992. Sadly their situation has not improved substantially since then.


From the moment we open our eyes
A new day puts us back in the vice of reality
A curious blend of boredom and tension
Fuelled by relentless uncertainty
We watch our children grow
They ask if they can go outside to play
We always answer ‘No’
Maybe in a month or so, but not today

Behind barbed wire
Our days turn slowly into months
And months to years
All things conspire
To grind us down till we grow weary being here
Time goes blindly marching on
While we stand and wait
Gazing at democracy
From behind a padlocked gate
Then we retire
Behind barbed wire
A candle flickers in the wind then disappears

Sometimes at night I lie there awake
Trying to fathom what sparked this insanity
Why are we locked up like rats in a cage
And treated like the dregs of humanity?
We learned our lesson well
They bombed us into hell and made hell freeze
Now the same self-serving crew
Say we’re jumpers of the queue, not refugees

Behind barbed wire
We watch your city lights spread out
Like a sea of stars
Behind barbed wire
You call us aliens
As if we came from Mars
Borders drawn to keep us out
Of here and over there
While capital unfettered
Chases profits everywhere
When we retire
Behind barbed wire
Men and women just like you is all we are

The walls and the wires of the camp
Where they lock up our hopes
And chain our dreams
Are the government’s approval stamp
When the hostel burns
And the migrant screams
And the thugs take to the streets legitimised
Spreading the hatred that breeds in the squalor of slums
March to the drum
Live under the thumb

Behind barbed wire
We take the blame for what your system can’t provide
Behind barbed wire
Used like a curtain to conceal the class divide
The common threat that binds the nation
And maintains the status quo
Protecting power and privilege
At the expense of those below
When we retire
Behind barbed wire
Another fence goes up around the ones outside

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