Chan: ‘My life is … an absolute waste’

BALI Nine drug smuggler Andrew Chan, who is awaiting execution by firing squad, has penned a powerful letter to his 15-year-old self, warning of the stupidity of his actions.

The letter features in a new documentary aimed at high school students, Dear Me: The Dangers of Drugs, in which Chan chastises himself for leading a heroin trafficking ring that has landed him on death row.

The six-page letter also addresses the teenagers of Australia to warn them off a life of drugs and crime.

“I don’t know what choices you guys are making, however, if anything, I would want you guys to remember is, ‘Is it worth it?’,” he says in the film.

“You are still young and you have some serious decisions to make in your life. What you choose today will make what you become tomorrow.

“If you want to be a thug and a big bad wolf, I’ll see you soon inside.

“But for those that want to do something in life, I’d like you guys to see how important it is to put your head down and study hard.”

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are behind bars in Kerobokan jail, Bali.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are behind bars in Kerobokan jail, Bali.

He laments the life he has missed out on, having been behind bars in Kerobokan prison in Bali since April 17, 2005. He was sentenced to death for leading a scheme to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin into Australia from Thailand.

“At the end of the day, I’m only 29 years old and, the truth is, I might not be able to see my 30th birthday. How many of you want to follow in my footsteps? And I hope these words will penetrate through your minds and in your hearts and that most of you, if not all of you, will achieve more than I ever did,” he says.

“I have missed weddings, funerals, just the simple presence of my family. The hurt and pain that I don’t just put onto myself but my family is agonising. A simple touch such as a hug is not possible for a condemned man like me.

“I have nothing but an iron bar to hug rather than to be embraced by those I love and who I miss. Most likely, I won’t have the chance to see such things such as the birth of my first child, let alone have a child.

“My life is a perfect example of an absolute waste. That does not have to be for you.”

Bali Nine ring leader Andrew Chan testifies in Denpasar District Court during an unsucces

Bali Nine ring leader Andrew Chan testifies in Denpasar District Court during an unsuccessful appeal in 2010.

Chan encourages today’s youth to seek out help, whether it be from a school counsellor, a youth centre, or a church, to avoid ending up like him.The director of Dear Me, Malinda Rutter, first met Chan at Kerobokan Prison two years ago and she says he is a changed man.

“Andrew Chan is a very different person to the person that was arrested,” Rutter told

“He’s funny, articulate, he is charismatic and has a very caring personality. You would not think that of a drug smuggler on death row.”

She made the documentary with the hope that it would inspire empathy for Chan and his fellow Bali Nine inmate Myuran Sukumaran.

“They realise their mistakes and where they slipped through the cracks and they’ve worked hard to turn their lives around,” Rutter said.

“I’m proud to call Andrew my friend.”

Waiting ... Andrew Chan still has not heard the outcome on his clemency bid. Picture: Sup

Andrew Chan earlier this month. Picture: Lukman S Bintoro

Andrew Chan said he suffered from bullying and racism as a child.

Andrew Chan said he suffered from bullying and racism as a child.

Rutter said Chan’s criminal behaviour began after he experienced bullying and racism in the schoolyard.“He was a really troubled kid and he wanted to be tougher and bigger than the other kids,” she said.

Chan explains in the film how he chose to follow a dark path.

“I got mixed up with drugs at a pretty young age and by the time I was 15 I was merged into the scene,” he said.

“I have done things which I am not proud of in my life and I made some pretty stupid decisions.

“I’m a person to say this because all you have to do is type me up on Google and I’m sure you get the results ‘death row’.”

But Chan has used his time in Kerobokan to grow. He has turned to god, studying theology and running bible groups for other prisoners.

He runs a cooking school for cellmates, and teaches them skills they can use to get a job when they are released.

He has also counselled friends of fellow inmates who had been executed.

“He was more concerned about how they were feeling that his own situation,” Rutter said.

Andrew Chan has turned his life around in jail.

Andrew Chan has turned his life around in jail.

Despite the fact that he is a convicted drug smuggler, Chan has become an unlikely mentor to many.Rutter remembers him giving advice to her daughter about the HSC.

“I will always remember sitting there with my daughter … and talking about year 12 and she was hanging onto every world because she respected his opinion, which is outrageous when you think about it. You have to ask yourself why,” she said.

Rutter has also spoken to ex-prisoners who Chan had helped to kick their drug habits. One former inmate, Arif Matius, said he felt he should replace Chan’s place in front of the firing squad.

“I would die for him,” Matius says through tear-streaked cheeks in the documentary.

The film ends with Chan’s letter to his 15-year-old self: “Dear Me, when you are older you will be in a Bali prison and you will be executed. This happened to you because you thought taking drugs was cool. Your drug taking made you think that it was OK to import drugs and make money from this. Your family and friends are heart broken and your life will be ended by a firing squad. Underneath you are not a bad person but drugs makes you different. My name is Andrew Chan.”

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran inside the art workshop of Kerobokan jail in Bali.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran inside the art workshop of Kerobokan jail in Bali.

Rutter said she hoped Chan’s story would inspire empathy from people, but she said at the same time that Australia needed to respect Indonesian law.“We have to appeal to the president (Joko Widodo) because (Chan’s execution) would be such a loss,” Rutter said.

“Andrew knows what he did was wrong and he knows that he should be punished but, for me, I don’t believe that his life should be taken away and that’s the really sad thing because that’s the end. That’s the end of someone turning their life around.

“My heart just breaks for Andrew’s mother and Myuran’s mother.”

The Australian Government has advocated for the pair to be given clemency and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday that they were “well and truly reformed”.

Mr Widodo has denied clemency to Sukumaran and Chan’s rejection is expected to follow soon.
Chan and Sukumaran’s Indonesian lawyers are preparing a desperate legal appeal, which has been made more urgent after six prisoners were executed on Sunday.

Andrew Chan (second from front) lines up with other inmates last year.

Andrew Chan (second from front) lines up with other inmates last year.

There are a range of views about whether Chan and Sukumaran should be executed. There are campaigns for clemency, such as this online petition; meanwhile, many Australians have commented on social media that they did the crime, so they should accept the punishment.

Rutter understands all point of view on the issue, especially seeing as her sister died of a drug overdose.

“I’ve experience that first-hand. I’ve seen the heartache … but there are human beings involved and, as a human being, you should show empathy and listen to people’s stories.”

The documentary, which was produced by Wyhldfisch Productions, will be distributed to schools.

Rutter, an Australian who now lives in Singapore, has worked in television and film for more than 30 years. She was an actor, model and TV presenter on Simon Townsend’s Wonderworld and MTV, she also produced Don Lane’s radio program.

Dear Me – The Dangers of Drugs documentary and study guide is available at the Atom Education Shop.

Originally published as Chan: ‘My life is … an absolute waste’


Children begin by loving their parents;……….

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
–Oscar Wilde

The mature person eventually forgives his parents. Any adult can look back and see childhood wrongs and unfairness. Many of us were disappointed by our parents, even neglected or hurt by them. We certainly didn’t get all we wanted or needed. Yet, upon joining the ranks of adults, we become responsible for ourselves. Every situation has limited choices, and we work with what we’ve got. As adults, we realize this is exactly where our parents were when we were children. They, too, were born into an imperfect world and had to do the best they could.

When we can forgive our parents, we are free to accept them as they are, as we might a friend. We can accept them, enjoy the relationship, and forget about collecting old debts. Making peace with them imparts to us the strengths of previous generations and helps us be more at peace with ourselves.


Jill Goldson: How to deal with rejection

 We know in our hearts that we can’t like everyone who likes us.

Why do we feel so down when we get a whiff of rejection? We know in our hearts that we can’t like everyone who likes us – just as everyone we happen to like can’t like us.

Remember those agonising days as a school child – cross-legged on the asphalt playground – when you were the last to be picked for a team – or worse still not picked at all – and told by the teacher that you can be a “reserve”. Ha, pull the other one – that didn’t fool us or salve the flame of hurt. Or what if you were not asked to a classmate’s party? Or not part of the cool group?

If you were to track daily happenings that flatten people’s moods, says Professor Mark Leary, Psychologist at Duke University in Durham, rejection will be Suspect Number One at the core of any mood problems.

Rather than beat ourselves up for being over sensitive, its important to understand that nature designed us to be vigilant about rejection, says Prof Leary. Our evolutionary history has designed us to be dependent on small groups of people – and getting shut out was dangerous as it compromised survival.

Our radar of social esteem scans our environment for any hint of disapproval or exclusion. A sort of Minesweeper to ensure our continued existence.

So this internal barometer reacts to all rejections – a bit like the bleeping noise that some cars make when they reverse – warning us of an obstacle – whether large or small.

Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts, says it actually hurts to be rejected. The part of the brain activated in rejection is the same that generates the reaction to physical pain. So being ditched by your best friend is as threatening to your wellbeing as touching a hot stove.

If you find your spirits lifted when someone asks “would you like to join us for lunch?” and plummeting with any cut down – “I like you, as a friend” – then you are demonstrating and experiencing a normal reaction and dealing with the biochemical responses to daily slings and arrows – as set down by your DNA.

A word of caution however, say the observers of everyday psychological reaction. A contemporary wave of emotional fragility with sensitivity to rejection is becoming more pervasive.

New York Psychologist Robert Leahy explains: “Our fragmented mobile society has also decreased the number and the strength of our social bonds – even 200 years ago people were part of a small clan and lived their entire lives in one town. The sheer number of strangers with whom we interact creates many more opportunities for rejection – which triggers needless anxiety and groundless jealousy”.

Those at the high end of the sensitivity scale may pay a very steep price for wanting to belong. Overwrought reactions to perceived slights might bring the very reaction feared – which can cause withdrawal into the self – and therefore create still further over sensitivity to rejection.

“We are becoming a performance based culture and young people in particular can feel urgency to grab the spotlight instead of working to become a stable member of the group. This makes them more concerned about how others are evaluating them – and more sensitive to rejection”, says Leahy.

Of course being denied by a love interest is the most agonising of all rejections. An inexplicable longing is often set up and can lead to obsession with the unrequited love complete with compulsive actions to find a way to be accepted- with wild sweeps of risky behaviour.

If you are caught in this type of pattern and unable to get free, it’s a wise move to seek help. The triggers of inability to accept rejection can lie in unresolved issues from our past history – often our childhood. And it can be unendurably painful.

Overall, we need to be kind to ourselves and remember that reactions to rejection are hard wired in us. But if it is taking too much of a toll -and you will know this if you find yourself in a pattern of ruminating about the latest rebuff – then seek some professional help or have a chat with a trusted friend or family member.

Practical tips for dealing with rejection

• Some people won’t like you or want you. It is not a catastrophe.
• It’s untrue that popular people never get turned down – actually they do – but the difference is that they handle rebuffs and this distinguishes them from those who get hurt.
• It’s not necessarily about you. You may well just remind someone of somebody else – most explanations for others’ behaviour are quite benign.
• Shades of grey – don’t delude yourself that people should either accept you or not – it is normal for people to have some ambivalences. It is about them and not you.
• Watch for over thinking – or ruminating – don’t let these crushing snowballing thoughts remove your motivation to find concrete action to change your situation.
• Try and see that “No” can also be seen as being deferred – ‘no’ often means ‘just not now’. It’s about timing: the timing of love, of jobs, of invitations – and all come and go on the tide of life.
• Dealing with rejection can lead to finding ways to be stronger – a prompt to building resilience.
• Seek out some old trusted contacts. And remind yourself how much you are loved.
• Challenge your sense of being defined by a rejection.
• If the negative feelings persist, seek some help from someone you trust.A year or so ago I was in a meeting with some professionals I didn’t know very well – and whose work I admired. I knew they were going out for lunch together after the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, to my joy, one of them turned to me and said what I heard as “Would you like a coffee with us?” My mood rose and my pleasure was obvious “Oh yes,” I enthused gratefully, “that would be just wonderful.”

A split second later I realised the comment had actually been, “Would you like a copy of this?”

And then they all gathered their belongings and left for lunch together as a happy throng.

I took my copy and drove home.

C’est la vie for all of us.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.

Thank you Ruth Hulburt Hamilton for affirming our priorities as mothers and reminding all of us to put our babies first and let the rest go. Also my cousin Sarah who reminded me to seek this poem/lullaby.