Detention baby takes pride in his story
Detention baby takes pride in his story

He's the well-mannered, quiet achiever striving to do his parents proud.

Wednesday will mark 16 years since Martin Chen was born in Port Hedland detention centre, where his parents Paul and Paula, and his then six-year-old brother Andrew spent 5½ years in detention.

"I've got a chance so I have to do my best," the Year 11 pupil at Mercy College, Koondoola, said.

For his first four years, Martin knew no other world than inside detention.

His parents fled China by boat in November 1994 because of the one-child policy. They had been denied permission to marry because of their young ages and had two children, Andrew born in 1990 and Sandy in 1992. The Chens were forced to leave their two-year-old daughter behind.

When the Chens were picked up in Australian waters they asked to be treated as refugees and were held in Port Hedland. Their applications were initially refused but not before Paula gave birth to Martin.

The family argued Martin would be considered a hei haizi or "black child" and could be denied all but the most basic food, education and health care.

He became the centre of a legal struggle that went to the High Court. It was not until 2000 that the family were granted refugee status on humanitarian grounds.

A year later Sandy was reunited with her family.

Martin speaks of the pride he has in his parents for the lengths they went to for their family.

"I'm thankful for my parents for getting through all that, for taking care of me," he said.

Martin hopes to study engineering at the University of WA.

The West Australian

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