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Well the world has certainly changed since our last newsletter, but not in the way any of us could have imagined. I hope that you and yours are well, and stay well, throughout what sounds like several months of very challenging times ahead for everyone in Australia and around the globe.
 
Like most other organisations across the country, we have cancelled, or put on hold, all of our face to face events. This means of course that our fundraising efforts, which were tremendous last year, will be severely curtailed. We fortunately have reserves to be able to keep our regular financial commitments to those we support. As you may be aware, we pay through trusted third parties to support men left in limbo on Manus, as well as offering support through two different groups who are tirelessly trying to offer solace and practical support to those detained in Australia. We also financially support individual refugees. We are looking at ways we can encourage donations or fundraising virtually. 
 
Over this next period our Homestay programme will be put on hold. We had also been working with Ballina Council on initiatives to realise their commitment to a refugee friendly shire. These will also be paused. 
 
We are currently investigating virtual ways we can continue to function as a Committee and importantly, to keep up our advocacy in a climate where it is almost impossible to get public or government attention focused on refugees. I am sure you have all noticed that the ABC TV serial Stateless is almost the only current mention of refugees in any general media. 
 
I have a strong belief that the passion and tolerance that has drawn us all to BR4R will not wane. We will just have to learn other ways to apply it. 
 
Warm regards, Ruth

Lismore Car Boot Market

BR4R was the designated charity at the March 1 2020 car boot market. We raised just under $2000 from the sale of clothing, books, plants, bric-a-brac and sundry other items on our stall and through donations made by people as they entered the market area. We were well supported by volunteers in transporting items to the market, setting up, staffing the stall, packing-up, transporting items back to Ballina and on the eight donation collection sites. Trish, the Fundraising Coordinator expresses her appreciation for the support given to this fundraiser. The BR4R Committee is also appreciative of and values the support from volunteers.

East Ballina Lion's Club Markets

The car boot market looks like it will be our last fundraiser for some time because of the impact of the virus. East Ballina Lions has decided to go into recess and will not be holding the Ballina markets in April. Dawn Sword, the East Ballina Lions Club President believes that the shutdown will have to extend beyond April.

Poetry Competition and Art Exhibition

 
Some of you will remember from our AGM we talked about an annual poetry competition in the name of one of our members, Louise Griffiths. We are now in active planning for this year's competition which will be launched in Refugee Week 2020. We are keen to include refugees themselves as possible entrants and are also looking for ideas to ensure we get maximum publicity. If you have any suggestions on either topic, please let me know.
 
BR4R has been planning to host an art exhibition with two short films in the Ignite Ballina Council studios in Ballina. The exhibition comprises a number of pieces designed by refugees through a joint project in Coffs Harbour with Anglicare and Southern Cross University. At this time the exhibition has been postponed but stay tuned for the dates later in the year.

Impact of the Corona Virus

The virus has had an adverse impact on a number of planned BR4R activities. These include:
 
(i) Palm Sunday Rally
The Palm Sunday Rally to be held on April 5 2020 has been cancelled because of the impact of the coronavirus. The organising committee felt that while there would be less than 100 people in attendance, many people would be in the vulnerable age group.
 
(ii) Roadside Rallies
In a similar vein, the roadside rallies held in Kerr Street near Ballina Fair, which were to recommence on March 25, have been postponed until the impact of the virus has past.
 
(iii) Byron Harmony Festival
BR4R has been invited to participate in this event, which was scheduled for March 21 2020. It has been postponed until later in the year.
 
(iv) Art Exhibition
An exhibition of art works by people who arrived as refugees was scheduled for the Ignite Gallery (part of the Ballina Regional Community Gallery) from April 28-May 3 has been postponed until late October. The exhibition was collaboration with Southern Cross University and Anglicare. Thank you to those who volunteered to assist with the exhibition.
 
(v) Feast for Freedom
BR4R will partner with Ballina Bunnings Warehouse to hold a cake stall on Sunday, May 9 as a fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. At this stage the event is still on but it is anticipated that it will be either postponed or cancelled, given that Bunnings has cancelled all BBQs for the foreseeable future.

Dragon Boat Regatta

Rainbow Region Dragon Boat Club asking if BR4R would like to enter a community team to participate at this highly regarded regatta. The regatta, sanctioned by DBNSW, the state dragon boat organisation, will be held at Shaws Bay, East Ballina on Saturday, August 8 and Sunday August 9 with community team races held on Sunday. In the past the cost for a community team to nominate was $260. A dragon boat team consists of 20 paddlers, and a drummer and a sweep, who will be provided on the day. There will be two training sessions if we decide to nominate. Each community team is guaranteed three 200m races – two heats and a final (Major or Minor) – as part of the race draw. The community team finals are held by lunchtime enabling community participants to head off to other activities later in the day. There will be a presentation to teams that come first, second and third in the community event. There is also a prize for the best-dressed team.
 
Paddlers can be members of BR4R, or their relatives and friends. In our case people on our mailing list would also be eligible to participate. If you are interested in being part of this fun event please contact Meg Pickup on meg.pickup1@gmail.com by the 31st March.

Donations from BR4R

Since our last meeting in November 2019 BR4R has donated the following amounts of money to groups supporting refugees either in Australia or Papua New Guinea:
January 2020
Brisbane Medical Evacuation Support Group       $400
Brigidine Sisters        $200
 
February 2020
Brisbane Medical Evacuation Support Group       $1400
Brigidine Sisters        $700
Fr. Giorgio                  $500
Dawn Barrington      $100
This is all possible because of your support for our fundraising efforts. The committee thanks you.
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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
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Ballina Region for Refugees
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Ballina Region for Refugees · PO Box 7083 · East Ballina, NSW 2478 · Australia

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