Drew Rooke is a journalist and the author of One Last Spin: The Power and Peril of the Pokies.
On a sunny July day, less than 24 hours after a two-year-old Australian-born Tamil girl held for 16 months at a Melbourne immigration detention centre had four teeth removed after they rotted from malnutrition, Sydney artist Luke Cornish painted a mural on the Bondi Beach Sea Wall.
The newest addition to the esplanade’s famous street art gallery depicted 24 helmeted and heavily armed officers standing in line looking out across the ocean. Their left chest pockets were stamped with “AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE” in bright yellow. Each carried an assault rifle, index finger on the trigger. Above them was written: “NOT … WELCOME TO BONDI”.
Painted to coincide with Cornish’s solo exhibition at the nearby Bondi Pavilion Gallery, which featured artworks inspired by three separate trips to war-torn Syria in 2016 and 2017, the mural’s 24 Australian Border Force officers were...