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The People Have Spoken!

What a stunning response to Senator Jacqui Lambie’s survey!

The Independent Senator used grass roots democracy to decide whether to vote for or against a bill that could have resulted in the banning of mobile phones in detention centres. She asked people to respond to a survey on her website, telling her whether she should vote for or against, and why.

Astonishingly, more than 100,000 people responded, and of those 96% advised her to vote NO – which she did, causing the Bill to fail.

Congratulations if you were one of those who took the effort to vote.

A small win for democracy and compassion, but a huge win for detained refugees!

Well what a month we have had at BR4R. We have congratulated the winners of our poetry competition, this year being its second year. Congrats to the three paid prize winners and thanks to all those who took the time to write and enter. In addition, this year, we have paid for poems from a number of refugees deemed by our three judges to be meritorious of publication. We are  at the moment working behind the scenes to get all prize winners and paid  poems published in the journal Coolibah. Once again this year a very hearty thanks to Dr Emma Doolan of Southern Cross University, who gave so generously of her time and expertise, in  what turned out to be very challenging circumstances.
 
We then held our Re-imaging Place pop up art exhibit over the 13th to 18th October. This exhibition of art, from refugee and migrant women who were enrolled in Anglicare North Coast 3Es program, saw 70 visitors come through and generated welcome media interest.  I gave two radio interviews, whilst we had two separate articles in the Byron Echo and airtime from a further local station. Every time someone in our community hears anything about refugees,  especially when that something is positive and uplifting, we gain another supporter. 
 
We then held a day-long workshop with trainers from the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative. This was also attended by the Uki Refugee group which gave us a great way of reconnecting. Both Uki and BR4R are now awaiting a refugee match through the mentoring program.
 
With all that positivity we had quite a counterbalance when we met with representatives of the Brisbane Onshore Support group working frantically, but successfully, to support the more than 100 refugees in Brisbane joining hundreds of others across the country, moved from Community Detention to Final Departure Bridging visas. This step, from what we understand, essentially renders the person homeless within a three week period, losing case management support and thrown onto the mercy of charities across the country. The State governments have thankfully mostly stepped up,  fearing large numbers of people may end up homeless during a pandemic. These Final Departure Bridging visas are for 3-6 months only, although the reality is that the majority of those on such visas will never be able to return to their country of origin.  Although holders can work, which is welcome, of course many of the refugees' skills have been seriously eroded due to the long periods they have been held in detention. No training is currently allowable under the visa. It really is an act of cruelty. 
 
I would encourage you to read more about this, to talk to friends/neighbours/work colleagues and raise awareness of this. Most Australians have no idea as to what is happening. All of us are going to need the support of many more than just the faithful, or the dedicated. Groups like ours will need, in challenging times, to keep our fundraising high to now support this group of people, people who are really just like us. The difference is that those now on Final Departure Bridging visas had no choice but to flee their country of origin. They are being punished for taking this action, and for exercising their fundamental right under international law to seek asylum.

I think we can all agree that it is now Time for a Home. 

Ruth

Our pop up art exhibition Re-imaging Place Zoom launch on 14th October

 
was a great chance for a virtual tour of the art works, to hear some great music, and of course to learn more about the artists and the organisers.

27 Zoom attendees heard from Emma Aspden, the Anglicare Northcoast 3E's to Freedom Programme Manager, from Zainab, one of the women whose works were on display and also from Dr Mandy Hughes who was part of the Southern Cross University research team working with Anglicare North Coast.  Mandy and Emma both stressed how much they had learnt from women on the Anglicare 3Es programme.  Zainab told attendees how much the programme had meant to her, what she mastered on the 3Es programme, her artworks, and a bit about her life today. 

BR4R was so privileged to be able to host this week long exhibition in the Ballina Shire Council managed Ignite studios in Ballina. 

BR4R really wants to thank Zainab and the other women whose works were on display, Emma, Ros and the team at Anglicare North Coast, Mandy Hughes and the Southern Cross University Team, all the staff at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery (Lee, Alice, Tim and others), Luke Robinson our launch muso for the original songs, the volunteers who staffed the exhibition and the 70 or so folk who came to view it. 

We have had a few ideas for next year.....

BR4R is seeking a volunteer coordinator

 
We are looking for someone who can make contact with new volunteers, give them information about our group and match them to one of our Coordinators as volunteers are required. We have all the information already prepared and a mail-out process established. The role is more about that first connection with those wanting to volunteer, as well as working with Coordinators when additional support is needed in any of BR4R's activities.  The role can mainly be done online.
 
If you are interested or would like to find out more, please talk to any of the Committee or email president@br4r.org.au.
 

The Federal budget delivers nothing for refugees
A message from the Refugee Council of Australia

 
When the Federal budget was released a few weeks ago, headlines outlined the government’s spending and who was getting what. Noticeably lacking from the headlines was the impact of the budget on refugees and people seeking asylum. (In addition to this lack of humanity on the budget,  we have all received the news that many refugees are currently being moved onto final departure bridging visas which limits access to Centrelink and training). 
Sadly, this recent budget was another missed opportunity to ensure people maintain a roof over their heads and food on the table. We know the brutal harshness and insecurity that many thousands of people now face.
Our government’s inhumane, punitive policies mean people seeking asylum are excluded from accessing a basic social safety net. They’re left to fend for themselves or rely on charity. With many charities struggling to meet demand, there is now an imminent crisis unfolding.
It’s a fiction when the government says, ‘We’re all in this together.’ The fact is, we’re not—and through the budget, the government confirmed its inhumane position.
Our government is allowing many thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum to become destitute and homeless during the worst economic recession in our lifetime.
Rather than address this stark reality in the budget, the government has chosen to ignore it. Instead of helping vulnerable people during this global crisis, the government cut Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program by 5,000 places a year and halved its financial assistance program to people seeking asylum. All the while increasing funding to its punitive offshore processing regime, to more than $1.19 billion per year.

The human cost of this budget is devastating:
  • Our economic research predicted that 14,000 refugees and people seeking asylum will face homelessness as a result of COVID-19 and a lack of government support. This budget only further cuts the meager resources available to support this group.
  • By making significant cuts to our Refugee & Humanitarian Program, we are turning our backs on millions of refugees around the world who are living in increasingly dire circumstances made much worse by the pandemic.
  • Today, 290 people are still trapped in Nauru and PNG, facing ongoing uncertainty as the government spends approximately $4 million per person to keep them trapped in this torturous situation!
Shame!

Update on  those left on Nauru and Manus Island


A Home Affairs official told Senate estimates hearings that resettlement of refugees to the US under the 2016 bilateral agreement is expected to end by March or April next year. Support from the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to administer Australian-funded settlement services will end in December 2020. As at mid-October, 870 former Nauru and Manus detainees had been transferred to the US, with a further 250 awaiting transfers after receiving provisional approval. About 80 refugees and asylum seekers are expected to remain on Nauru and Manus at the end of the agreement. Department of Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo said New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees ‘remains under active consideration’.
Source: Kaldor International Centre

Morning tea with Janet Wilson and Rebecca Lim 
 

Some of the BR4R committee recently met with Janet Wilson and Rebecca Lim from the Brisbane On-Arrival Support Group, enjoying coffee and cake on Rik and Lisa’s verandah.
Janet and Rebecca were in the area for a short break from their relentlessly challenging work at the refugee and asylum seeker coalface.  The On-Arrival Support Group is a regular recipient of BR4R funds, and their need has been made even more acute by the Federal Government’s decision to move the more than 500 refugees brought to Australia from offshore detention for medical attention, from community detention onto Final Departure Bridging Visas. This means that they have three weeks to find both accommodation and jobs, leaving them with no access to any Federal financial assistance.
These already severely traumatised people, mostly ill or incapacitated due to neglect while in detention, are often not well enough to work. Also, the chance of them finding work without previous experience in Australia, in the middle of a pandemic and an economic recession, is extremely slim.  They have effectively been set adrift and Janet and Rebecca said that it’s causing extreme distress.
“People don’t understand the physical and mental toll on these people”, Janet said.
When asked how Rebecca and Janet themselves keep going, Rebecca replied, “we have some small wins, and we take Vitamin B”.

Bravo Angus!

 
BR4R congratulates one of its supporters, Angus MacDonald, for the huge achievement of becoming a finalist in the Archibald Prize, Australia’s most prestigious portrait competition. The genius of Angus’ portrait of Behrouz Boochani is that his face expresses many emotions – anger and determination are obvious, but there is also bewilderment and vulnerability.
Additionally, Angus’ choice of subject has once more brought the attention of Australians to the Government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.  Well done Angus!

Kaldor Virtual Conference 

 
New Frontiers of Refugee Law in a Closed World
17-20 November 2020
NSW’s Kaldor Centre Virtual Conference 2020 brings together leading thinkers from around the world with diverse perspectives to explore what the post-pandemic world will look like for refugees and other forced migrants.
 
Setting the agenda
Over several days, we will explore the big issues facing the refugee protection regime over the next decade. Our ambitious, agenda-setting program will unpack where we stand in the wake of COVID-19, where we are going, and what can be done to promote refugee protection in the face of emerging challenges. 
Global reach, diverse voices
Harnessing the opportunities of going online, we will welcome speakers and delegates from across the globe. Sessions are designed to be accessible around the world - with live sessions scheduled for easy viewing in multiple timezones, and quick playback options for those who can’t join in real time.
Not just talk
This will be more than just a series of talks. Breakout sessions and discussion boards will promote engagement and exchange amongst delegates across the world. For those who wish to connect, there will be the opportunity to create profiles and chat one-on-one or in groups on topics of shared interest.
 
Ticket pricing:
  • Free ticket - For delegates from refugee backgrounds and the Global South, early career scholars and those who can't pay to attend
  • $25 - Reduced rate - For those who can contribute a little
  • $50 - Full ticket - For those who can cover the cost of their attendance
  • $100 - A helping hand - For those who can purchase their own ticket plus help cover the cost for someone in need. These tickets help to make this event inclusive by enabling us to maintain free attendance for those who can't afford to pay.
Please note: Price includes Eventbrite booking fee and taxes.
Open to all, attend one session or a number of sessions.

Fact checking Acting Immigration
Minister Alan Tudge

 
Minister Tudge has made a  number of statements recently which really need challenging. We started last month and continue to put the counter side to some of these "facts" using government sourced information. Please share widely. 

Link to Fact Checker
 

Ballina Region for Refugees
Annual General Meeting (AGM)

 
will be held on Saturday the 5th December 2020 at the Grandview Apartments Meeting Room
1.30pm for registration and 2pm meeting commencement.
A formal notice to members will be sent prior to the 14th November with reports for this current year.

Committee Membership for the 2020-2021 year:
President – Nominations are called. Ruth Henderson is the current President and will be renominating for 2 years.
Vice President – Nominations are called. Stanley Yeo is the current Vice President and will be renominating for 2 years.
Treasurer – Filled. Rik Dillon holds the position of Treasurer until Nov 2021
Secretary – Nominations Called. Meg Pickup has conducted handover with Sandra Mondange who will be nominated.
3 Ordinary Members – 2 current vacancies. Lisa Dillon will remain an Ordinary Member.
2 positions for Ordinary Member require nominations. Members are encouraged to consider nominating for these positions. Nomination forms will be forwarded with the Notice of AGM

Ballina Markets and Roadside Rallies are on!

 

Ballina Markets

We had the best market ever last month and collected $708, mainly selling clothes. Come along and check out our stall. There's plenty of bargains! The friendly BR4R volunteers are always happy to have a chat. This market may not be as grand as others but there's always a friendly and fun atmosphere. For our enjoyment a local musician plays away right next door.
Next market stall will be held on Sunday 15th November 2020.

 

Roadside Rallies

The roadside rallies are held on Kerr Street outside Ballina Fair across the road from Hungry Jacks from 4:30pm. The next rallies will be held on Wednesday, October 14, 28, November 11, 25 and December 9.
People are invited to be part of the rallies
 
Make a donation today
Link to BR4R on Facebook

Latest News

For the latest news on matters related to people seeking asylum and refugees please follow these links
Refugee Council of Australia
Kaldor Centre for Refugee Law UNSW
Amnesty International Australia
Ballina Region for Refugees
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