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Lismore Carboot Market
Volunteers needed

HELP! HELP! BR4R is the Charity of the Day at the Lismore Carboot Market next Sunday, March 7th, and we don't have enough volunteers to hold the donation buckets, to set up the stall early in the morning or to pack up in the afternoon. If you can spare even one hour, your help would be very much appreciated, as this is a very important annual fundraiser.
Please contact Trish:  trishantoniacomi@gmail.com

It seems that it was only yesterday that I was typing my last "few words''. This has clearly been a busy and active month.  Last month we were pleased to hear that more and more refugees were being released from hotel detention, albeit onto final departure bridging visas.  Unfortunately we still have no clear reason why some refugees are still stuck in hotel detention, and others have been released.  This month we learnt about those detained in Darwin who have received very little media attention indeed.  Whilst the release of some, gives hope to others, it is also causing frustration and confusion for many. Perhaps this is the government's objective? 


Rural Australians for Refugees www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au is a peak body that we are affiliated with. They link rural groups like BR4R across Australia and give a strong voice to the cause. They are building up a pool of funds so that if any refugee released moves to a rural or regional area, groups like ours can access funds immediately for things like bonds, initial  work related expenses etc. BR4R has donated $1000 to this fund and we will of course be able to access the pool ourselves. We are still waiting to be matched with a refugee/s through our involvement in the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative but we have also been open to supporting others who wish to move to Ballina, outside this Initiative. So far we have talked with a small number of refugees, who in the end decided to stay in major cities.  

With restrictions lifting, our fundraising remains strong. The Bunnings BBQ was a great success. We were very positively received and raised over $1000. Some of you might wonder what we actually do with the money raised? Our aim is to allocate all we raise, only retaining funds that are absolutely necessary such as our public liability insurance payments that allow us to participate in markets. Each month we distribute funds to three trusted different groups working directly with refugees so they have a regular income stream, and we know that the funds are being appropriately used. Those groups are: Brisbane On Shore Support Group (now predominantly supporting those released from community detention onto final departure bridging visas), Manus Lives Matter (supporting men left on Manus Island) and Dawn Barrington (supporting those in hotel detention and in onshore detention centres). This month in addition, to our usual payments, we have added a further $1000 to support those exiting hotel detention. 

When I tell people of my involvement with BR4R , they often ask, but what can I do? This coming month you can get really active. We need volunteers for our car-boot market in Lismore on the first Sunday of the month, 7th March; we need people to come along to Kerr Street in Ballina on the first Wednesday of the month, 3rd March, in Ballina at 4.30pm.  This is when we will hold our roadside rally to raise awareness about the Time for a Home campaign. We need people to write letters to moderate Liberal MPs, Central Alliance and Greens MPs. You could hold a Feast for Freedom on the weekend of 26-28th March in your own home, and you can join us at our Palm Sunday rally on the Sunday before Easter on the Lennox Head forestore

You should find information about all of those in the newsletter but if not, please email us on admin@br4r.org.au

 

Finally if you want to get involved with a national impact, Rural Australians for Refugees are looking for new and additional board members, please contact  www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au
 

Looking forward to seeing you at one of the events, 
Ruth

My name is Thanush, 

I am a survivor of Australia’s detention centres on Manus, at the Mantra Hotel and MITA for over 7 years of my life.

Last month I was released and I am still filled with excitement and joy about my freedom.

Because I am free now, I got the chance to talk and film with ABC 7.30 Report about the years of life we lost in detention, what happens for me now and how I want my brothers and sisters still in detention to be free.

If you missed the 730 Report last night, you can watch it here. 

Support me and people still locked in detention by making our voices louder: 

Share my message on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #TimeForAHome

Going back to the Mantra Hotel for the 7.30 story, standing outside and looking up at the windows we were isolated behind, getting sicker and longing for our community for such a long time made me feel even more strongly about the freedom of people still in detention.

I need time to recover from the pain and loss of years of my life in detention, I got very sick for a long time, people still in detention are also sick from years of no freedom. Especially women who have been through unimaginable trauma.

They still cannot walk very far, or go to a park or be with family and friends outside like I can now. They need time to live as free people now so they can get better too.

The people of Australia need to know how we are being treated and how we cannot have a future. Share my story with them on Facebook and Twitter

Though I am finally free, I cannot make any plans for my future because of the temporary visa I have been given, I cannot even see in my mind what my future can be yet.

In my past life, I was a visual designer and a computer repairer, I worked many jobs. In Manus and the Mantra detention centres I became a community organiser, a human rights activist and a leader.

Now after so many of my working years lost to detention, I am trying hard to find any job I can, so I can just live.

I cannot think about studying which my visa does not allow me to do. I cannot think about a family or a life beyond this six-month visa.

I am still just surviving. I want to contribute and live a life like a human being, and I want all my friends still in detention to have the same life.

Thank you for your love and support and for never giving up on our freedom.

I am so happy to be here with you. We won’t give up until all the people, families and children who survived Australia’s Offshore Processing are free and have a home and a future.

Thanush


What about those on Nauru?

With much media attention focused on hotel detention, it is easy to forget that there are still people languishing on Nauru.

About 120 refugees and asylum seekers remain on Nauru based on figures from the Home Affairs department itself.  The Federal government  has extended its offshore processing services contract with Canstruct for six months at a cost of $221 million. This is equivalent to $10,000 a day for each asylum seeker on the island according to the Australian Financial Review. I am sure we could offer great community support on shore for that amount of money!

Source : Kaldor Centre

Those left behind in detention

Refugee advocates estimate 124 refugees and asylum seekers brought to Australia under the now-repealed Medevac laws are still in detention after dozens were released onto bridging visas in the past few weeks. Those remaining in detention said they have been given no explanation why they have not been freed, and they are ‘devastated’ to have been left behind.

One group that is not much heard of, are 15 refugees held in detention in Darwin, brought to Australia as they were deemed in need of medical treatment. A group of 51 medical professionals recently signed a letter to the Home Affairs Minister, calling for the immediate release of 15 refugees detained in Darwin for almost a year since being transferred from Nauru on medical grounds. The letter claimed many of the refugees have received limited medical treatment that has not addressed their existing conditions, and that their health has further deteriorated due to inadequate living conditions in hotel detention. One refugee, Mr Golmohammadian said he and his wife were being detained in a roughly 3x3-metre room with bunk beds. He said health problems meant the couple were unable to climb into the bunk bed, so Mr Golmohammadian slept on the floor. His two children, a man of 21 and a woman of 32, were detained together in what Mr Golmohammadian said was a similarly small room, with no privacy. Mr Golmohammadian has joined the pleas of other refugees stuck in limbo who say they are being treated inhumanely and are effectively in prison without committing a crime.

Of course if, and hopefully when, this group of 15 refugees are released, like others who have also been released from hotel or community detention, they will be offered no government financial support whatsoever. They will be given a temporary 3-6 Final Bridging visa and be expected to seek support from charitable organisations.

To  learn  more about this situation follow these links:

This month BR4R donated $1000 through Refugee Voices who are aiming to offer $1000 to those being released.

Source material from the Kaldor Centre, February 2021


Time for a Home Campaign
 March Update

We are encouraging everyone to consider sending a letter to Federal politicians in the week 1-7 March. This week is the Time for a Home call to action week. 

We will have a special Time for A Home Roadside Rally and below is some detail that might assist in your letter writing.

How can you get involved?
During the campaign, BR4R asks members and supporters to write letters (send via email) to: 

• Moderate Liberal politicians: 

Dave Sharma MP (Dave.Sharma.MP@aph.gov.au)

Jason Falinski MP (Jason.Falinski.MP@aph.gov.au)

Katie Allen MP (Katie.Allen.MP@aph.gov.au)

Angie Bell MP (Angie.Bell.MP@aph.gov.au)

Trent Zimmerman MP (Trent.Zimmerman.MP@aph.gov.au)

• Independent politicians 

Andrew Wilkie (Andrew.Wilkie.MP@aph.gov.au)

Zali Steggall (Zali.Steggall.MP@aph.gov.au)

Helen Haines (Helen.Haine.MP@aph.gov.au)

• Centre Alliance politician 

Rebekha Sharkie (Rebekha.Sharkie.MP@aph.gov.au)

• Greens spokesperson on refugees 

Senator Nick McKim (senator.mckim@apg.gov.au)  

 

You can use this suggested text below, in full, in part or just write your own letter.
You should sign your letter personally rather than as being a member of a group.
 

The Hon (see above for details)

Dear Sir/Madam

The Time for a Home campaign, endorsed by over 100 organisations, is intended to raise awareness of the need to immediately release and resettle people detained in indefinite on and offshore detention by the Australian Government. These are people who have legally sought asylum here and who Australia has obligations to under international law. The Time for a Home campaign calls on the Australian Government to free these women, men and children, and quickly resettle them into our community, so they can be safe, and have a place to call home. 

One such person I have become aware of is Farid. Farid has been trapped in onshore detention for over seven years now, struggling to stay positive – for himself, and for his wife and two young children. Farid’s family live on the other side of Australia from where he is detained. They were separated with no clear reason from one another three years ago, when his son was only a few months old. Farid is in limbo. With no plans for his release or resettlement he is being robbed of his future, and a life with his family. Last year he watched his children open their Christmas presents from his phone in a detention centre. He knows he has to keep hanging on but is scared to hope. He just wants to be with his family again. 

It is impossible for me to imagine what it must be like for Farid to get through each and every day. Can any of us imagine how we would feel if we legally applied for asylum from another country and were treated this way?

I strongly support the Time for a Home campaign, especially when I became aware that there are still many other people like Farid stuck in limbo in detention centres around Australia and offshore processing, including those in

  • Nauru and Papua New Guinea

  • Hotel detention in Australia

  • In community detention with no government support, no work rights, heavily reliant on community support

  • Alternative places of detention

  • Christmas Island – The Biloela family, living in a small shack with one bed to share and other dehumanizing restrictions. 

I understand that those detained are at risk of further harm, including:

•  being transferred from one detention centre to another, in an endless cycle of torment, that is cruel, unfair and unnecessary 

• increased mental and physical distress and harm that we know comes from being locked in detention indefinitely and being left in limbo, separated from their families, with no place to call home

For too long our Government has chosen to deny refugees a life of dignity and safety, by keeping people locked up indefinitely. 

The Time for a Home campaign focuses on the premise that it is time to end detention and give people a place to call home. People seeking asylum and refugees need a safe, permanent home now so they can rebuild their lives and own their futures. For this to happen, the campaign demands that the Australian Government immediately release people lawfully seeking asylum and refugees from immigration detention and commit to a pathway for their resettlement.  People lawfully seeking asylum and refugees have lived too long without a home, deprived of their freedom and their futures.

I want to see justice and fairness for people seeking asylum and refugees. Justice means safety, respect, and for people like Farid to be with their loved ones. It means no more detention. I ask you to play your part in making sure those who remain detained are offered justice, fairness and a home here in Australia.


Peter Dutton's push to use 'secret evidence' to revoke citizenship condemned

Some of you might have thought that Dutton has been very quiet and a number of us did note him nodding off recently whilst the House was sitting. No, Peter is still up to his old tricks, trying to push through legislation that will mean a further lack of transparency about government decisions. Many argue that existing laws provide the safeguards Dutton claims are needed for "security". This recent Guardian article is informative. The consequences are chilling.  

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/23/peter-duttons-push-to-use-secret-evidence-to-revoke-citizenship-condemned?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

There is hope......

Whilst CRSI work hard here in Australia to change the Federal Government's Community Sponsorship Programme, in the US things are already changing.

4 February 2021,
President Biden made an afternoon announcement that the US will raise the refugee admissions ceiling to 125,000 persons in the first full fiscal year of his administration. He also signed a comprehensive Executive Order (EO) on rebuilding the US Refugee Admissions Program. Among other things, the EO orders that relevant departments submit a plan for expanding co-sponsorship and private sponsorship in the US. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the Executive Order and reiterated support for sponsorship, noting that:
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program would not be where it is today if not for the millions of Americans in local communities across the country who have so generously welcomed refugees from around the world.  Going forward, a key part of our collective effort will be the creation of broader linkages with community and private sponsorship programs that will strengthen the program. This approach will complement the traditional system of working with our network of domestic resettlement agencies to welcome and place new refugees.  

History of Refugee Policies in Australia

This is the first in a series of articles written by our Masters of Social Work Student, Rachel Welstead. This history gives a context to where we are now.

Refugees and asylum seekers and the impact of White Australia policies

The experience of refugees in Australia has been impacted by key policies of immigration and multiculturalism. These policies add to the contradiction between Australia’s Human Rights’ obligations and the Australian Migration Act, enabling the continued detention of those legally seeking asylum here, adding to their ongoing trauma, 

1901 saw the development of policies named the White Australia policies. One aim of those policies was to restrict the arrival of immigrants, especially those by boat, to ensure immigration through British descent (Gregoire, 2020). 

After World War II, the shortage of skilled workers meant Australia needed to extend immigration to continue to grow as a nation. The Migration Heritage Centre (MHC) (2007) highlights that over 2 million people immigrated to Australia between 1945 and 1965. The first migrants were displaced people from the war, then people who were looking for work and better living conditions. Initially they were predominantly British, then Europeans.

Roads to Refuge (2020) explain that Australia has legal obligations relating to the status of refugees and those people seeking asylum, given Australia is signatory to the United Nations 1951 Convention.  Australia also has clear obligations under other international Human Rights treaties regarding the need for active attention to Human Rights, including for those at sea. However, the Australian Migration Act 1958 limits Australia’s obligation toward asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa and the continued practice of detention for those arriving by boat (Roads to Refuge, 2020).  

Australia also prides itself on its multiculturalism. Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (2016) discusses how multiculturalism in Australia is successful. AHRC claims success is demonstrated by immigrants’ economic participation, the academic achievements of their offspring and the level of social cohesion. This success has been attributed to planned nation-building, public endorsement and cultural diversity (AHRC, 2016). However, despite this success, Australia’s multicultural success is limited by who has been included as acceptable.  This acceptability has been reinforced by the Australian Immigration Act 1958, which contradicts Australia’s international Human Rights obligations toward refugees and people seeking asylum here. 

References:

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (2016) The success of Australia’s multiculturalism. Retrieved from https://humanrights.gov.au/about/news/speeches/success-australias-multiculturalism#:~:text=Surveys%20have%20shown%20that%20public,for%20the%20past%20three%20years.

Gregoire, P (2020) The white Australia policy part 1: Constructing fortress Australia. Retrieved from https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-white-australia-policy-part-2-the-legacy/

Migration Heritage Centre (2007) Objects through time. Retrieved from http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibition/objectsthroughtime-history/1945-1965/index.html

Roads to Refuge (2020) Who is a refugee. Retrieved from https://www.roads-to-refuge.com.au/whois/whois_government.html

Feast for Freedom 26-28th March

Many of us have friends who are somewhat interested in hearing about refugees, but who have busy lives and are time poor. One way of engaging with friends is over a meal. Many of the world's issues have been worked through over lunch or dinner!

Over the weekend of 26th-28th March, the ARSC 's Feast for Freedom is encouraging people to get together and share a meal. Whilst it is a way of raising funds, it is also a good way to talk to each other. 

If you register your feast, you will receive a great host kit. There are also tips to keep your feast COVID safe.

Your Host Kit will be the secret ingredient to help make your Feast a success. The kit includes a gorgeous recipe booklet and lots of surprises to help you cook up a storm in the kitchen.

Register your Feast to receive a special Feast for Freedom Host Kit.

We'd love to hear from anyone who hosted a feast!

For any questions, here are the contact details. 

Feast for Freedom
P: 1300 692 772 (MY ASRC)
E: feastforfreedom@asrc.org.au
W: feastforfreedom.org.au

Claire is holding a Feast. You can too!

I first heard about the Feast for Freedom to support the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre through a friend’s post on Facebook. A cause I have felt deeply about having spent my childhood in Sri Lanka and having first hand experience of the 30 year Tamil/ Sinhala civil war in Sri Lanka.

I registered as a host on the ASRC website and received a thank you host pack with a recipe book, tea towel, cloth bag, wooden spoon, conversation starter cards and a notepad. These I have chosen to set aside as Lucky door prizes. Incidentally, the recipe book featured a Palestinian and a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka!

The 3 dates given for the Feast of Freedom did not suit me and I have chosen a different date in March.

While having coffee during a club bike ride I tentatively asked if anyone was interested and that instead of donations, I was putting a fixed figure of $40 for the feast. All 10 seats were taken up!

ASRC have phoned me to offer any support and answer any questions. They also help set up a fund raising page if you wish.

If you are interested in holding a Feast please feel free to contact me.

Claire Goodwill
Claire.r.goodwill@gmail.com

This is also the first in a series of articles presenting you some of our dear active members, the heart and soul of BR4R!


LESLEY WILKINS

 

BR4R MEMBER AND
ACTIVE VOLUNTEER 

Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Sydney and came to the North Coast with my husband in 1978. We had two children, a boy and a girl, but I left my husband in 1991. I began my career as a Maths teacher in Sydney, and later, on the North Coast, worked at TAFE, teaching adults, which I loved. In 2000 I left Australia to work in an amazing International School in Norway. Later I taught Maths to adults in England, which was followed by an incredibly interesting 18 months teaching in China.

Eventually I took up a position at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in the Northern Territory, where I really loved working with indigenous adults from remote communities who were studying literacy and numeracy. Unfortunately, I experienced first-hand the government's hard-fisted, non-consultative control of these people as they removed this valuable course.  

From there I was very lucky to get a position working at the University of Wollongong where I worked with students who found maths "challenging" but needed it to pass their courses.  Most of my students were studying Primary Teaching but were scared of maths!

I loved that job but after six years there decided to finally retire to help my kids who by this time had children of their own.  So I am now 72, and I guess my main role is as a grandmother!  I am very lucky to have a lot of time with my 4 grandchildren, ages 10, 7, 6 and 4.  We have lots of fun!

In the past I’ve volunteered with the Byron Community Centre, the Toy Library and the Friends of the Young Drums, which involved a huge amount of fundraising.

Many people are sympathetic to the plight of refugees and people seeking asylum, but only a few take action. 

What drives you to be a BR4R activist?
I have been ashamed to call myself Australian ever since John Howard lied about the Tampa - remember the "children overboard" affair?  I happened to be living in Norway at the time - the captain of the Tampa was Norwegian. The boarding school I lived at was close to a small township where people seemed to know everyone connected with the school so it was no surprise that the teller at the local bank questioned me about what was happening "back home"!  I stumbled over an answer but was determined to tell him that I was dead against the government's actions and "I certainly did not vote for Howard or his party"!  I feel even more ashamed now as this vile treatment of our fellow human beings who have every right to flee their origins and seek asylum in our country has gone on for so long.

I think by joining BR4R I have been given a bit of hope that there are many like-minded people out there and I must admit I enjoy the group immensely as it is a pleasure to talk about current affairs with people who feel the same way that I do.  The rallies also give me heart as we get such positive responses. I also appreciate greatly the people who take refugees into their homes for the period of home-stay.  That is a real display of what I used to call "Aussie-ness" - the real Australian values!  I don't have the confidence to do this so I will continue in the role in which I am most comfortable!

What keeps you volunteering for BR4R? 
I believe that if we have a constant presence in the community - such as the rallies, markets, and the Bunnings BBQ - all of which raise both our profile and lots of money, then people who otherwise forget about asylum-seekers and/or refugees are perhaps prompted to remember them and perhaps their consciences might be pricked and perhaps they might not vote for the so-and-sos who keep the refugees in their current state of torture - which is all it can be described as.  And if all those "perhaps" perhaps happen, then perhaps the refugees and asylum-seekers will be brought out of detention and given decent treatment and become part of our community as is their right.  I think it is up to us, the community, to continue to fight on the refugees' and asylum-seekers' behalf, to give them a voice they otherwise do not have.  And the more of us who continue to do this then eventually the government might cave in and say yes!  Enough is enough!

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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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