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“Re-Making Place”
 Art exhibition @ Ignite Studio Ballina


Our "pop up" ‘Re-making place’ art exhibit at the Ignite Studio Ballina is coming up fast. Please see our poster for details. 

Our advertised launch will go ahead as a virtual launch on Wednesday 14th October at 5.30pm.

We invite all members and interested others to join us in this open meeting. We will hear from the Re-Making Place project organisers from Anglicare and Southern Cross University. We are hopeful that a couple of the artists may join us too. No need to RSVP, just click on the hyperlink below to join. You can also join by phone although we do hope to show a few of the art works as part of the launch/open meeting.
 
BR4R Zoom Launch of Re-making Place Art Exhibit
Time: Wednesday Oct 14, 2020 05:30 PM 
Join from PC, Mac, iOS or Android
Just click on the hyperlink: https://scuonline.zoom.us/j/91560397074
Or join by phone by dialling +61 2 8015 2088
 If you are prompted for a meeting ID: 915 6039 7074
Greetings all as we move into spring and the heady scent of flowering plants is all around us here in Ballina shire.
 
I am sure you would all agree that we are so, so lucky living here in our small rural communities and towns.
Not so fortunate are those stuck indefinitely in our detention centres. The Commonwealth have been called out (again) on their atrocious treatment of detainees. 
 
The Kaldor Centre reports that " The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s bi-annual report raised concerns about immigration detainees being held for ‘lengthy periods’ or indefinitely, and an apparent increase in the use of force across the immigration detention system. The Ombudsman also criticised security-risk assessments and complaints management and said the government should reprimand its contractor, Serco, for its inadequate response to one complaint about the use of force. Greens senator Nick McKim said the report exposed the ‘brutality’ of Australia’s immigration detention regime. 
 
Amnesty International made a submission to the United Nations for its upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Australia's human rights record, outlining ‘many human rights violations’ suffered by refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. The submission said Australia is also still failing to protect the rights of 370 former immigration detainees who remain in Papua New Guinea and Nauru" .
 
I hope that a number of you listened in to the sessions on how to start a conversation about some of those issues.
 
On a positive note, it is so heartening to read of young people continuing to protest on a daily basis in Brisbane both outside the Kangaroo Point hotel and in Parliament Square. Our reports tell us that this is about the only thing that is bringing hope and joy to those locked inside the hotel. 
 
At BR4R we are staying active and energised. Our Committee has been invigorated by the addition of Sandra Mondange to the role of Secretary/admin officer. Welcome Sandra and thanks so much for stepping forward. You can learn a bit more about Sandra in the newsletter. 
 
In other news, our Ballina market stall is back in business and raised $427.50 this month. Thanks to Meg, Trish and all the helpers. Our roadside rallies have continued throughout the last few months. Thanks to all who turn up each fortnight to raise awareness. You will read elsewhere in the newsletter that BR4R is applying to be part of an exciting new initiative within the Community Sponsorship project. Thanks to Stanley for taking the lead on this. Our poetry comp deadline has been extended to the end of August so please spread the word. Our pop up art exhibition is coming up in October. All are welcome to our virtual launch on Wednesday 14th October. Lisa, our Publicity Officer, is doing a great job promoting and writing. 
 
Any group is only as good as the strengths, commitment and energy of its members. As we approach our AGM in November we will be seeking new Committee members. Please consider standing so we can keep up the activity. 
 
Warm regards, Ruth

Poetry Competition closes 30th August
Keep those entries coming!

What is happening on Christmas Island?

 
There are worrying reports that Christmas Island is being used to move refugees from Australia, in part to take them out of the public eye. The Department of Home Affairs is arguing only those who are convicted of crimes will be moved. 
The Refugee Action Coalition understands that the first group of people being transferred from Yongah Hill immigration detention centre in Western Australia to detention on Christmas Island were moved from the Yongah Hill detention centre on Friday, 14 August. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) reported ‘enormous anxiety’ amongst detainees at the Yongah Hill centre, many of whom have mental health issues relating to previous trauma or torture. Refugee advocates and community leaders on Christmas Island are concerned that the transfers may spread COVID-19 to the island, which has currently had no cases of the virus and has only three doctors and no ventilators
After initial moves were stalled by protests inside the centre, people slated for transfer were given superficial medical check-ups. The 'check-ups' however did not include a test for COVID-19 infection; the only checks were for temperature, weight, blood sugar and blood pressure.
The move to re-open Christmas Island has raised concerns of refugee advocates across Australia. The government is ignoring overwhelming medical opinion that people in immigration detention should be released, both for public health and mental health reasons.
Potentially this move to Christmas Island is the beginning of a major reshuffle of people in immigration detention that can only magnify the risk of covid infection. Some people in immigration detention in Melbourne have apparently been told that they are liable to be moved from Melbourne to Christmas Island via Yongah Hill as part of the reshuffle. Alongside an undisclosed number of detainees, between 200 and 300 staff members will be moved to the community to manage the facility "in the coming weeks", an ABF spokesperson said in a community factsheet sent to local government members on Christmas Island.   
Alongside the health risks there is the on-going human rights abuse that immigration detention involves. Anyone in detention on Christmas Island will of course be even more isolated from family and legal support.
The recent tragic death of a detainee in the Melbourne detention centre has raised further concerns.  Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition argues that given there has been a lack of  appropriate care and treatment given to refugees in Melbourne, a major city, it is hard to see how serious medical conditions can be managed on Christmas Island.
“The sensible and safe alternative is for the government to release people from immigration detention into the community. There are families and enough individual offers to provide safe community accommodation for all those in immigration detention." (Ian Rintoul)  In fact many of you would be aware that there is a growing movement in Australia of those willing to offer community based accommodation and practical support. 
Can this government get any more inhumane and negligent in their care of those who have legally sought asylum in Australia? 

Sources: 

Group Mentoring of a Refugee in our Community 


BR4R was recently invited by the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) to participate in its Group Mentor Program to help a refugee individual or family to settle in our community. CRSI has been advocating for the introduction of a community refugee sponsorship program in Australia, which would enable ordinary Australians to sponsor refugees from overseas. The Federal Government is currently reviewing its refugee sponsorship policies and CRSI is hopeful that a suitable Federal program could be available next year.  
In the meanwhile, CRSI, along with a number of key partners,  has launched a Group Mentor Program which will pair up to 12 local community groups from across Australia with refugees already in Australia who would benefit from receiving practical support right now.

Mentor groups would: 
  1. help CRSI test and refine a comprehensive sponsor training package which has been developed by Canadian experts and others at the forefront of programs in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere; and
  2. assist a refugee individual or family for six months in a variety of ways which may include help with orientation in your local community, help finding work, assistance with education and homework or addressing other specific needs, with access to back-up advice from a settlement agency.
BR4R has decided to form a Mentor Group, and members were invited earlier this month to join it. We are delighted that interest has been strong. Should we be selected by CRSI, it will commence training our Group in September.

Accommodation urgently required for Refugee settling in Ballina
 

Ballina Region for Refugees (BR4R) is supporting a refugee to settle in Ballina from the start of October this year. He is a 34 year old single man from Sri Lanka who is likely to take up a year-long horticultural traineeship with Ballina Shire Council. He will be looking to rent accommodation for himself alone or to share with other(s). As such accommodation is scarce in our region, BR4R would greatly appreciate members passing the word around to anyone who can assist.

Please contact Stanley Yeo for more information: email: s.yeo@br4r.org.au; ph: 04219 55186

Lowes and George Gooley's menswear
donate clothing

 
It’s particularly heart-warming when people who are undergoing difficult times are prepared to help others who are experiencing even harder times.
Despite the extreme downturn in retail spending caused by the Covid-19 shutdown, both Lowes Menswear and George Gooley’s Menswear recently provided generous discounts to Ballina Region for Refugees members, Meg Pickup and Rosemarie Schibli, who were shopping for warm clothing for refugees currently being detained in the Mantra Hotel, Melbourne.
Ballina Region for Refugees had been informed by Melbourne refugee advocates that seven of the men being detained in the Mantra had insufficient warm clothing. These men had been Medivaced to Melbourne seven to eight months earlier, and were still awaiting treatment.
The clothing has now been received and the men have expressed their extreme gratitude, and also their delight at being given brand new clothing.
Ballina Region for Refugees supports refugees and people seeking asylum in many different ways, and has itself been affected severely by Covid-19 due to the cessation of fundraising activities.
Monetary donations can be made at www.br4r.org.au

Roadside Rallies

The roadside rallies will be held on Kerr Street at Ballina Fair on Wednesday September 2, 16 and 30 at 3:45pm and October 14 and 28 at 4:30pm.
 

 Market Stall

Our stall at the last Ballina market was very successful. We made $427.50 selling popcorn, books, clothing, children's toys and games, bric-a-brac and plants. This was our first market since the pandemic started. Thank you to our volunteers who helped with set up and breakdown and assisted on the stall. Without your support we would not be able to hold these important fundraisers.
Next market stall will be held on Sunday 20th September 2020.

Donation to Byron Bay library
 

The Kabul Peace House, by refugee advocate and acclaimed author, Mark Isaacs, is one of two books donated to Byron Bay library this month, by BR4R.
Isaacs tells the true story of an Afghani man’s project to establish a community devoted to peace through cultural understanding.
Tom Keneally writes that the book “gives substantial and realistic hope for what has been until now a repeatedly defeated dream, that human intelligence might evolve into peacemaking”.
The second book is Flight, by Australian children’s author, Nadia Wheatley, with powerful illustrations by Armin Greder.  Flight won the 2016 Children’s Book Council Picture Book Award.
Set in biblical times, Flight tells the story of a small family who sets off across a desert in search of refuge from persecution in their own country, and an ancient story becomes a fable for our times. Their journey is beset by heat and thirst, threatening tanks and the loss of their donkey, but eventually they reach a refugee camp where they can wait in safety for asylum in another country.

BR4R Treasurer, Rik Dillon, explained that part of the organisation’s mission is to support projects and writing that increases the understanding of other cultures and the challenges that are faced.  “Reading books like these two can help Australian readers to have more understanding of the challenges that people in less stable societies can face, which can mean greater tolerance if they come here as asylum seekers.”
Rik Dillon is pictured giving the books to Byron Bay Library Technician, Stacey Shepherd.
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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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Ballina Region for Refugees · PO Box 7083 · East Ballina, NSW 2478 · Australia

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