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Newsletter for 25 October - Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Report from Harbourside Market stall
Next roadside demonstration - Coffs Harbour Big Banana Thurs. 27th Oct
Bellingen fundraising concert - Nov 27th
Our new petition

Report from our Harbourside Market on 23rd October

We had a good market in Coffs Harbour at the weekend, with five of our supporters joining John and Mike at different times in the morning. We met lots of people, many of whom had seen, and were appalled by, the revelations in last week’s Four Corners Report. People were very ready to sign our new petition, take information leaflets, donate to the Asylum Seekers Centre and buy our merchandise. From time to time we meet people who have had direct experience of Australia’s detention centres, both onshore and offshore. An ex-Army Intelligence officer recently spoke movingly about his experiences on Manus and Nauru. One comment that I will remember forever was along the lines of “You people are here because you believe that the conditions on Nauru are dreadful. Well, let me let you, they are worse than you could possibly imagine, and if you spent a week there, you would not sleep well at night again.”
Our next market stall will be at the Bellingen market on Saturday 19th November. Why not put the date in your diary and come and join us?

Roadside demonstration: Thursday 27th October at the Big Banana.

Our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday, 27th October in front of the Big Banana from 3.00 pm until 4.30 pm. Several of our regular team will be away  this week, so we are urgently seeking help from our supporters to join us for this demo. It’s a great way to bring the cause of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus and Nauru to the attention of the public. We are a visual reminder to people that the issue will not go away simply be shrouding the activities of our government in secrecy and  spending large amounts of money on spin doctors. Please consider giving up a little time to help get across the message that you will not look the other way and that you will stand up for refugees. If you can help, then please email Robin at:
Sanctuary Australia Fundraising Concert: Bellingen 27th November at 3.00 pm

Sanctuary Australia is a local charity, based in Coffs Harbour, which helps to settle approved refugees into the local community. They have been doing amazing work in the area for many years and rely on the help of sponsors and donors to keep up their work. OnSunday 27th November, starting at 3.00 pm in the Memorial Hall in Bellingen, there will be a fundraising recital with David Helfgott, who will be playing Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Chopin. The programme will also include Yantra De Vilder, who will present her unique and beautiful award-winning performance of “HAIKU”. Tickets are $68 or $60 concessions.  You can get further details by phone : 6652 2127, or go to the website at:  Or you can book online at:

Our new petition

We launched our new petition, which is in the form of an open letter to our local Member of Parliament at the market on Sunday. The letter reads:
“Dear Mr Hartsuyker,
Evidence from professionals working in the detention centres on Manus and Nauru, together with reports from international organisations, make shocking reading and viewing. These centres are clearly designed to inflict suffering and to break the spirits of innocent people. Evidence of physical and sexual abuse are well documented, and go unpunished. It is time to put an end to this shameful policy. We urge you, as our representative in Parliament, to make a firm commitment to the urgent closure of these centres and to the resettlement in Australia of asylum seekers and refugees currently on Manus and Nauru.”
We will collect further signatures at the markets in Bellingen and Valla Beach, and we are attaching it to this newsletter in the hope that you will print it and try to get 10 signatures from friends, colleagues and family members. If just half our supporters were to each collect 10 signatures, that would amount to more than 2000 signed petitions. That would be such a powerful message to send to our elected representative!
Please give it a go, and return your signed petitions to the market in Bellingen on 19th November, or to the Valla Beach market on  3rd December, or post to Mike at : Mike Griffin, 39, Rogers Drive, Valla Beach, NSW 2448.  (Email copies are not permissible for petitions).

Amnesty Report on Nauru
After unprecedented access to Nauru in July of this year, Amnesty International have released a major report entitled “Island of Despair ”. To arrive at the report, Amnesty interviewed 62 refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and corroborated testimony from interviews using thousands of pages of medical reports and statements to police. The report concluded that :
“ The Australian government is responsible for deliberate and systematic torture of refugees on Nauru and should be held accountable under international law”. 
Evidence gathered by Amnesty includes detailed allegations of recurrent self-harm and attempted suicide, children being hit by teachers and threatened with machetes, deficient medical care and persecution similar to that which refugees had experienced in their homelands. Amnesty concluded that the offshore processing regime was “explicitly designed to inflict incalculable damage on hundreds of women, men and children” as an act of deterrence, by isolating them on a remote place from which they cannot leave, with the specific intention that these people should suffer harm”. 
Amnesty’s report paints a picture of a dysfunctional and cruel system where Australia exercises strict control but publicly passes the buck to Nauru, and where on-the-ground authorities lack the power to make decisions without Canberra’s permission.

Dr Anna Neitat, Amnesty’s senior director of research who travelled to Nauru, said that Australia should be held accountable for breaching the Convention Against Torture , with a possibility that officials could be prosecuted under international law.

The report states “The Australian government is not even hiding the fact that the key purpose of this policy is deterrence. When you set up a system that inflicts deliberate harm as a deterrence it’s really hard to find another name for it other than torture.”
Furthermore it is being shrouded in shocking secrecy.
Malcolm Turnbull this week defended his governments policy and reiterated the claim that offshore detention is saving lives by ‘stopping the boats’. Amnesty, however, concludes that Australia had shifted the goalposts on what other countries considered to be acceptable treatment of refugees, and had “already harmed global standards on refugee protection.”

There is overwhelming evidence that offshore detention is unsustainable and there is increasing public pressure for this policy to end. Let’s keep up the pressure.

Marlene Griffin

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