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Meeting with Local Members of Parliament to canvass their support for  Community Refugee Sponsorship

Members would be aware of the formation of BR4R’s refugee settlement support (mentor) group. This group has undergone training by a national NGO called the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) the past six months. At the request of CRSI, BR4R sent a letter (reproduced below) in February to our two local Federal MPs, Ms Justine Elliott (Richmond) and Mr Kevin Hogan (Page). The letter aimed to provide a succinct description of what CRSI hopes the Federal Government will do in relation to a changed policy on community support of refugee settlement in Australia.

The letters were followed with BR4R members meeting in person with Ms Elliot and Mr Hogan in March and April respectively. Ian Phillips of Sanctuary Northern Rivers provided further support by attending the meeting with Mr Hogan.

Despite their political differences, the MPs were very supportive of the concept of community refugee sponsorship. Mr Hogan said he would write to Mr Alex Hawke, the Minister for Immigration, as well as to Ms Karen Andrews, the recently appointed Minister for Home Affairs. Ms Elliot said that she would approach Kristina Keneally, the Shadow Minister for immigration.

Letter to MPs Justine Elliot and Kevin Hogan

 

Greetings all as we move into May, with so much happening on the refugee front.

You may recall that last month we mentioned the plight of refugees detained at the Mercure Hotel in Darwin after being transferred from Nauru for medical treatment. I let you know that we sent money through one of our trusted advocates, Dawn Barrington,  for practical assistance. An update on this situation is that we have learnt that Darwin City Council has voted to lobby the federal government to release the nine refugees. The Council voiced ‘strong opposition’ to the indefinite detention of the refugees, citing its support for refugees from East Timor in the 1990s as a reason for supporting the motion. 

Some of you may have read Kristina Keneally's widely published report of her recent visit to Christmas Island. Whilst clearly she is calling for the Bileola family to be released, and she demonstrates great compassion, it was somewhat discouraging to read in the middle of the article that she continues to support offshore processing.  Now Malcom Turnbull has joined the call asking Karen Andrews to use her ministerial discretion to release this Tamil family from detention on Christmas Island. Speaking on ABC’s Q&A program, Turnbull said he also agreed with the government’s border policy, but said ‘compassion’ and ‘humanity’ were required. Andrews told reporters last week she had requested a detailed written briefing on the case, but only to ‘look at the facts’.  It beggars belief that a family with small children is being treated this way as some sort of example. Shame on you we say.
We also heard this week from our contacts of the terrible news that refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea (PNG)  were held at gunpoint and assaulted after an armed gang broke into their Port Moresby accommodation, home to about 15 former Manus Island detainees. At least three required hospital treatment, and several had all their belongings stolen. Last year there were two similar attacks on apartment complexes housing asylum seekers in Port Moresby. Refugee advocates said the Australian government is responsible for the refugees and asylum seekers living in unsafe conditions, and should bring them to Australia or accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees annually. BR4R has committed funds to support the repurchase of stolen items, which included clothes. 

To enable us to distribute funds as above, our main source of income over the last few months has been our market stalls in Ballina and Lismore, with each raising well over $1000 per market. Thanks so much to those of you who volunteer month after month and to those come and help whenever they can. Thanks to our regular customers and those who pop by every now and then. Special thanks to Trish, Meg and Rosemary, the dedicated coordination team. The future of the Ballina markets appears a little uncertain at present but we hope that someone will step forward to keep them going. All funds raised at the markets are being put to good use. 

This month we also launched our 3rd annual poetry competition. Please help us spread word far and wide, details are in this newsletter. The competition is open to anyone living in Australia, irrespective of visa status. The competition is funded by the contributions made to BR4R in the name of volunteer Louise Griffiths who passed away a few years ago

In June we will hold our first open night of the year for our members. Details of that will go out to all financial members in the next few weeks. We now have 66 financial members, the most since BR4R commenced. Thanks so much to you for your commitment to BR4R. If you are not yet a member and would like to become one, please see our website for details.

Warm regards, Ruth 

Acknowledgement to the Kaldor Centre for some of the text in this report.

UPDATE FROM MANUS LIVES MATTER

Each month  BR4R sends $200 to the Brigidine Sisters for distribution through the Manus Lives Matters network. These funds go directly to refugees still in PNG who get no government or formal financial support. Life in PNG can be challenging on many fronts. Although "free" from detention, those in PNG are really in limbo with no certain future. Some have been accepted for the US but many still have no idea what will happen to them.

An extract from the report follows: "Thank you so much for your ongoing generous contributions to support the men from Manus. Your $200 each month has been a key donation for us and there are many needs we have been able to address because of your support that we would not otherwise have been able to respond to".

We get many requests from those on Nauru and Manus and cannot say yes to all but we check them out and are confident that we are meeting needs that otherwise would not be met. The men are in a very bad way mental health wise these days. 

Whenever funds allow, or we receive an additional request, we do our best to respond. This month we are donating an additional $1000 to assist with costs for maternal and childhood care for a small number of refugees who have partnered with women from PNG. The relationship means the women and children get no support either. We are also supporting the replacement  of items such as clothes and phones after a household of refugees was broken into.

CALL FOR HELP / INFORMATION

BR4R has, for the past 2.5 years, offered financial and material support to the Brisbane Off-Shore Arrivals  group. This group was originally set up for those being Medevaced to Australia. Many of those ended up in locked hotel detention. The group has continued to offer support into the hotels and to those who have recently been released..  The group has also done an amazing job in supporting those being released from community detention onto temporary final bridging visas.. One of the group members, Janet Wilson, has asked BR4R for support  to identify training opportunities in Queensland for refugees being released from detention. 

Janet has advised BR4R that the recently released men and families from locked detention and community detention are expected to work even though they have had little opportunity to upgrade their skills or gain new ones. The settlement services were supposed to provide some basic training, such as the white card, but access to training has been tightly controlled by ABF and immigration . As  people have moved out of the 3 week government offered bridging accommodation, the support of settlement services has stopped. People are now reliant on volunteer community supporters to access training that they might need.

Janet reports that "some of the men used their 3 weeks in a settlement service accommodation well and had the confidence to negotiate training opportunities that fitted with their interests and skills . However, many haven’t been able to do that and they are floundering. We have had some success with barista, first aid, life-guard training . Many men are interested in forklift training. As you are aware, many of these people arrived highly skilled but updating skills is also needed. We are getting many requests for specific training but a number of  people don’t even know what opportunities there might be for them.

We are feeling overwhelmed by these requests and we are hoping that we can find someone, or a couple of people, who know the Queensland training systems and who could put some time into helping people find and access training. We can provide a briefing to anyone willing to assist.  This assistance could be done remotely if anyone in your area had this knowledge through  linking with one of our team, Rebecca.  I am wondering if there is anyone in your network who has this experience and who could put their mind to this issue. Janet says " any ideas and contacts are welcome as we continue to try to provide reasonable support to this cohort".

If you can assist, please contact us, admin@br4r.org.au. If you can't assist, but could send this onto someone you know can assist, please do. If you need more information,  let us know and we can link you directly with Rebecca or Janet from the Brisbane group.

VOLUNTEER UPDATES

BR4R relies heavily on the support of our amazing volunteers. Thank you to those of you who give your time and energy, we truly appreciate you. 

We have volunteers standing at the roadside fortnightly on one of our rallies, volunteers coordinating and staffing market stalls, volunteers cooking and catering for events, volunteers  writing letters to politicians, volunteer musicians and volunteers opening their homes to host refugees on short stays.. We also have a volunteer settlement group ready to support any refugee who wants to be resettled in Ballina. Our Committee and all of our Coordinators are also volunteers.

We always need more volunteers than we have. We also need to make sure that we are keeping information about current volunteers up to date so we don't bother you if you only wish to volunteer in one part of our organisation. On the other hand, we don't want to miss you out if you might be keen to assist in different ways. With that in mind, our new Volunteer Coordinator, Jane Lewis, recently sent out an email to all on our volunteer register. A gremlin got into Jane's system and her first email came out with computer gooblydegook. In her enthusiasm, Jane did not realise that she had shared all email addresses, rather that is BR4R's practice, to bcc everyone. 

We sincerely apologize for this error.

If you have not yet responded with an update of your interests, here are the key areas Jane would like responses to. You can email or call Jane with your response.

Please put ‘Y’ against each BR4R activity you’re interested in:

·         Events:
·         Homestay:
·         Letter writing:
·         Markets:
·         Refugee support:
·         Roadside Rally
·         Mentoring
Other, please specify

Please add any comments that you feel might help us understand your availability:  eg., no longer available to volunteer …, or not available during school holidays … etc. 

Please send your responses back to Jane at volunteers@br4r.org.au or call if you have any questions

Jane can be contacted on 0490 714 344

‌History‌ ‌of‌ ‌Refugee‌ ‌Policies‌ ‌in‌ ‌Australia - Part 2

This is the second in a series of articles tracing the history of Refugee Policies in Australia. It was written by Rachel Welstead who recently completed her Masters of Social Work placement with BR4R.

John Howard, Tampa affair, Children Overboard and the winning of an election

History demonstrates that John Howard won an election by his turn-the-boat-back policies and the way he promoted asylum seekers and refugees as immoral, inhuman and uncivilised. 

Reilly (2017) discusses the “Tampa affair”. This refers to an incident that occurred on the 26th of August 2001 involving KM Palapa 1, MV Tampa and John Howard. The KM Palapa 1 was an Indonesian fishing boat carrying 438 asylum seekers. MV Tampa was a Norwegian cargo ship traveling to Singapore from Fremantle. These vessels crossed paths when KM Palapa 1 was travelling to Christmas Island. KM Palapa 1 with the asylum seekers on board became stranded after the engine failed in international waters, about four hours away from its destination. Arne Rhinnan, the captain of MV Tampa ,decided to transport the asylum seekers on the MV Tampa to Christmas Island after a small delegation of asylum seekers pleaded and threatened to jump ship if they were taken back to Indonesia. However, under the instruction of John Howard, Neville Nixon, of the Department of Immigration ,threatened Rhinnon with a fine of A$110,000 if MV Tampa entered Australian waters (Reilly, 2017). 

It is difficult to find what actually happened to the asylum seekers between being picked up by the MV Tampa and subsequently being taken to Nauru on the HMAS Manoora. However, Skeers (2001) writes that ‘heavily-armed SAS personnel were involved in removing the refugees from the MV Tampa onto the naval ship. The 438 asylum seekers, who were mostly Afghani, were held on this naval ship, HMAS Manoora, for two weeks. During this time more than 237 asylum seekers, mainly Iraqi, were also rescued from another Indonesian fishing boat and collected by the HMAS Manoora. This resulted in the HMAS Manoora being extremely overcrowded, where conditions were poor, such as only two toilets for all those passengers and a lack of access to the deck for fresh air’(Skeers, 2001). 

Over a six-week period, from the time the Tampa asylum seekers were picked up and forcibly taken to Nauru is thought to be when the turn-the-boats-back policy began. Around this time there were a number of other boats intercepted and a number of drownings had occurred. The children overboard incident (Reilly, 2017) is now well recorded.  Dellit (2002) explained this became the ‘lie’ that was created when a communication from the HMAS Adelaide indicated that a child was “being held overboard” by asylum seekers. Phillip Ruddock, the then Minister for Immigration, passed on the report to the media that children were “being thrown overboard. What actually seems to have happened is that when the Australian Navy boat started firing shots around the boat to force it to turn around, frightened asylum seekers jumped overboard while others held their children in the air to show the Navy that children were board (Dellit, 2002). 

Skeers (2001) describes how the Tampa affair, coinciding with terror attacks in the US, was used to create a rhetoric that Australians need to be protected from immoral, inhuman and uncivilised people. The Australian Labor party played a key part in perpetuating this by their support of the anti-immigration policies. The media was complicit in promoting the same agenda and the Slattery (2003) identified the rhetoric in the media was created by promoting the political dialogue of fear of ‘other’, using slogans such as ‘children overboard’ that in effect helped legitimise inhuman government actions. Slattery claims this was also further supported by photo imagery such as armed SAS personnel boarding ships to remove asylum seekers, and then again being involved in the removal of these same asylum seekers from the Australian Navy ships to land on Manus Island (Reilly, 2017). 

Prior to the Tampa affair, John Howard was behind in the polls for the up-and-coming Federal election. His response to asylum seekers, and the use of negative rhetoric and imagery toward refugee and asylum seekers arriving by boat, are seen to have been key to winning of the election for John Howard, and the cementing of the turn-the boat-back policies. 

References

Dellit, A. (2002). How the ‘children overboard developed’. Green Left Weeklyt. Retrieved from https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/how-children-overboard-lie-developed

Reilly, A. (2017). Australian politics explainer: the MV Tampa and the transformation of asylum-seeker policy. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/australian-politics-explainer-the-mv-tampa-and-the-transformation-of-asylum-seeker-policy-74078

Skeers, J. (2001). Australian government detains nearly 1,000 refugees offshore. World Socialist Website. Retrieved from https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2001/09/ref-s26.html

Slattery, K. (2003). Drowning not waving: The ‘children overboard’ event and Australia;s fear of the other. Media International Australia, 109(1), 93-108.
https://doi-org.ezproxy.scu.edu.au/10.1177/1329878X0310900110

Interview of a member: Cath Napier

Tell us about yourself – where you grew up, your family, your work...

I grew up in Sydney and knew from a very early age I wanted to work in the area of social justice. I think the fundamental values of fairness and equity were imparted by both my parents. I studied social work straight after school and then worked for about 8 years in family and child welfare, including working with refugees in inner city Sydney.. During this time, I had four children of my own and I became interested in teaching. This led to my studying post graduate education, and later my Master’s Degree.

I then worked for several years as a social worker in developing countries, including in Laos and Cambodia, and then six months on Nauru.  The majority of this work was in child protection. I then worked as the regional child protection technical advisor for Save the Children in the Pacific and South-East Asia before semi retiring to my own consultancy business where I still work internationally. Currently I am involved in a fascinating research project with UNICEF, ECPAT, and Interpol, listening to the voices of survivors of online child sexual abuse.

Many people are sympathetic to the plight of refugees and people seeking asylum, but only a few take action.  What drives you to be an activist?  

My early experience working with refugees from Chile, Argentina and Vietnam alerted me to the trauma that refugees encounter and the difficulties faced in settling into a new culture. This was magnified by my work with refugees from The Sudan and Sierra Leone while teaching, where I also became acutely aware of the racism they face. Working on Nauru took my strong belief in human rights to new levels of advocacy when I really recognised and became intensely shameful of the fact that my own government was committing institutionalised child abuse and were covering it up. The issue of trying to raise awareness and action about the plight of asylum seekers and refugees is probably the single most abhorrent social justice issue I have encountered in my 40+ years of being a social worker, both in Australia and internationally.

What area of BR4R’s work are you most interested in, and why?

​I was firstly involved as a member of the Committee as I thought my first-hand Nauru experience may be helpful in advocacy. The work on the Committee was more intensive than I could commit to while I still am actively involved in other work. I have therefore become more involved in speaking up about asylum seeker issues at public events. I am also involved as a host in the Homestay Program. It is perhaps the latter that I am most interested in because it allows me to have direct contact with the refugees themselves. Meeting people directly and immersing myself in different cultural practices and beliefs is what I love to do. In this way, I hope I can further my understanding of these people's issues and therefore offer greater insight to others and make my advocacy more genuine and 'real'. Due to my work experience and qualifications, I am also interested in offering any support I can with child protection issues or working with anyone who has been traumatised.

RACS needs urgent support
Update from the Refugee and Casework Service

We have been notified that the Department of Home Affairs is unexpectedly expediting interviews for people seeking asylum in NSW who arrived in Australia by boat, aiming to complete all interviews by the end of June

These men, women and children are having their claims assessed by the restrictive fast track process, which lacks procedural fairness, and if refused a visa, they face great risk of being returned to danger.

Prior to COVID-19, RACS attended approximately 12-15 interviews per month. Now in April we are attending double that and have been advised by the Department that May and June’s interview numbers will be higher again.

This greatly increases the pressure on our service, already pushed to capacity.

What’s truly concerning is that more than half of the people coming to RACS are not known to us and may not have received legal support until now.

Without RACS’ assistance, they would have faced the Department interview alone.

We estimate there may be up to 200 people in NSW in need of imminent assistance, who will be interviewed between April and the end of June. It’s almost 12 months of work for our team in the space of 3 months.

RACS needs financial help now to make sure all need it are legally represented  

 Donate today


RACS is a registered Australian charity with the ACNC

You can also donate through the RACS webpage.



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The 2021 BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize
is now open

Ballina Region for Refugees invites you to submit up to three poems to this year’s Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize. This year’s theme is ‘Time for a Home'.

The BR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize celebrates the positive contributions that refugees make to our communities. It acknowledges the circumstances that forced them to flee their homelands and request refuge in Australia.

We welcome poems of up to 50 lines that consider the experiences, aspirations and hopes of refugees and asylums seeking a home in which to build new, meaningful and safe lives.

The 2021 BBR4R Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize takes inspiration from the #TIMEFORAHOME campaign. It is time in Australia to release all refugees from detention. It is time for a permanent resettlement solution. It is time to give our refugees a home. 

Poets may send in up to three poems. Poems can be sent until the closing date of Sunday 15th August 2021. Entry is free and is open to anyone living in Australia. BR4R especially welcomes poems from refugees and those seeking asylum in Australia.

Cash prizes will be awarded to first ($300), second ($150), and third ($50) place winners. Winning entries and selected runners-up will be published in Social Alternatives.

Further information, guidelines & conditions, and entry form are available at https://br4r.org.au/poetry-comp/.

Ballina Region for Refugees is a volunteer organisation supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

Join Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law for the launch of 
The Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law  

 
Join the Kaldor Center for the launch of
The Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law  
 
The Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law is a groundbreaking new book which critiques the status quo in international refugee law and sets the agenda for future research. 
 
Professor Hilary Charlesworth will launch this state-of-the-art work and engage in a lively discussion with the three editors, Professors Cathryn Costello, Michelle Foster and Jane McAdam. The event will be chaired by refugee advocate and lawyer Nyadol Nyuon.
 
Date: Tuesday 25 May
Time: 6–7pm AEST (9–10am BST, 10–11am CEST) 
 
We invite you to join us to find out what the Handbook tells us about the situation for refugees today, and how international protection is – or isn’t – working at a time when mobility is curtailed for so many. A 65-chapter reference work involving 78 authors, including 48 women, the Handbook is global in scope, with 10 chapters focusing in detail on specific regions, including Africa, Latin America, Asia, Oceania and the Middle East.
 
Register now



Hilary Charlesworth is a Melbourne Laureate Professor at Melbourne Law School and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University. 

Cathryn Costello is Professor of Fundamental Rights and Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School, Berlin, and Professor of International Refugee and Migration Law at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

Michelle Foster is Professor and inaugural Director of the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness at Melbourne Law School. 

Jane McAdam is Scientia Professor of Law and Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Sydney. 

Nyadol Nyuon is a community advocate, lawyer, writer and accomplished public speaker, who was resettled in Australia as a refugee in 2005. She is a member of the Kaldor Centre’s Advisory Committee. 

BALLINA MARKETS

 

Last month, the market was cold and quite early but then as the sun started to shine we got busy. 

With pre sales and some donations we ended up making $1184. How amazing is that!

The next Ballina market will be on Sunday May 16th.
 

ROADSIDE RALLIES

The next roadside rallies dates are May 5 and 19 and June 2, 16 and 30 at 4pm.
The rallies are held in Kerr Street in front of Ballina Fair, across the road from the fast food outlets. Come and support us. The more people who attend the better the response from passing vehicles.
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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Ballina Region for Refugees · PO Box 7083 · East Ballina, NSW 2478 · Australia

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