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Newsletter for 31 January 2017 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Diastricts

Report on meeting with Luke Hartsuyker MP
Valla Beach Market Stall - Sat 4th Feb
Next roadside demo - Big Banana Thurs 9th Feb

Report on our meeting with Luke Hartsuyker MP

Last Tuesday Sue, Peter and Mike had a 30-minute meeting with our Federal MP in order to present him with our RAR petition and to discuss with him the appalling treatment of asylum  seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. In truth, it would be a serious overstatement to suggest that we engaged in a discussion with Mr Hartsuyker. The sad truth is that, in spite of our best efforts to get a reaction from him, he sat in silence until the final few minutes of our allotted time. Only then, when pressed to react to the facts that we had put before him, did he speak. He restated the Coalition’s border protection policy and the government’s success in stopping the boats and saving lives at sea.  He steadfastly refused to be drawn on any of the issues that we had raised and was unwilling to acknowledge the reality that the government’s policy is inflicting untold damage on innocent people, is causing great damage to Australia’s international reputation, and is immensely costly for Australian taxpayers.

On Wednesday, we issued a press release, which we sent to the local press in Bellingen, Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Heads.  An article based on the press release was published on the online edition of the Bellingen Courier Mail almost immediately. You can read the article by following this link -

The press release reads:
Hartsuyker stands by Coalition’s asylum policy

A delegation representing the 500-strong local Rural Australians for Refugees group met on Tuesday 24th January with our Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker. The purpose of the meeting was to present him with a petition, signed by some 400 local people, which calls on the government to close the offshore centres on Manus Island and Nauru. The two centres have a history of inflicting untold harm and suffering on the detainees, who are held there indefinitely, at great financial cost to the Australian taxpayer. These people have committed no crime. They have fled wars and persecution in their home countries to seek safety for themselves and their families, as is their right under international law. The three-person delegation spent half an hour talking to Mr Hartsuyker – who remained passive and silent throughout – about the inhumanity, immorality and illegality of punishing men, women and children through a deliberate policy of cruelty aimed at deterring others from reaching our shores. They reminded Mr Hartsuyker about the countless reports and accounts of the conditions for asylum seekers in offshore detention, all of which paint a clear and consistent picture of a system which is deliberately designed to harm people and to break their spirits.

At the end of the meeting, when asked to comment, Mr Hartsuyker reiterated the Coalition’s policy of protecting our borders, stopping the boats, and saving lives at sea.  He steadfastly refused to be drawn on the reality of the cruelty and suffering inflicted on asylum seekers in offshore detention, where self-harm, physical and sexual abuse are daily occurrences, and where suicides and preventable deaths seem to be the acceptable price to be paid to help to “keep us safe”. He also refused to entertain the idea that other, more humane, courses of action might be preferable.

A spokesperson for the group, Mike Griffin, commented: "We explained to Mr Hartsuyker that we have long since lost count of the number of people who approach us at our market stalls to tell us that the government’s cruel policy on asylum seekers makes them feel ashamed to call themselves Australian. Sadly, Mr Hartsuyker was not interested. It appears that moral leadership and principle are woefully lacking in the current political climate.”

Next Market Stall: Saturday 4th February

Following the success of our recent market in Bellingen, we are now planning for our next market stall at Valla Beach on Saturday 4th February. It would be great to see some new faces, as well as welcoming old hands! If you can help for a while between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm, then please let us know by emailing: .It’s a great opportunity to have a chat with fellow supporters and to engage with the market goers, who are always overwhelmingly supportive of our work.

Roadside Demonstration at The Big Banana: Thursday 9th February. 3.00 – 4.30 pm

Our first roadside demonstration of 2017 will take place by the Pacific Highway, beneath the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour on Thursday 9th February. Wouldn’t it be great to send a strong message to our local member of parliament that we are determined to keep up the fight for the closure of offshore detention centres! Please try to join us if you can. We have lots of banners and placards to share . We passionately believe that the roadside demos, and the markets, are a great way to keep up the pressure and ensure that the terrible plight of our asylum seekers is not hidden away, as the government would wish. If you can help, please email Mike at  

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