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3.4.18

Newsletter for 3 April 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Next Roadside Demo - Toormina, April 5th 2:30pm
Next market stall - Valla Beach 7th April
Cuts to asylum seeker benefits
10 year old finally receives treatment in Australia
Rules are rules - for some
UN shocked at treatment of detainees on Nauru

Roadside demonstration: Thursday 5th April: Toormina
Our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday 5th April from 2.30 to 4.00 pm in Toormina. You will find us on Hogbin Drive, about 150 metres from the fire station in the direction of the airport, opposite the landscape suppliers. We have lots of placards and banners to share, so please consider coming along to join us. We must continue to send a clear message to those in power that we will not  stand idly by whilst they continue to punish asylum seekers and refugees who have fled violence in their home countries  to seek safety in Australia.
Our next market: Valla Beach, Saturday 7th April
Our next market stall will be at the Valla Beach market on Saturday from 9.00 am until 1.30 pm. The last market in February was cancelled due to wet weather, so this will be our first and final opportunity in Valla Beach to collect signatures on our open letter to the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. We will be handing out leaflets, talking to market-goers and selling our merchandise to support the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown. If you can help out for an hour or two, then please email Mike at :mandm.griffin2@bigpond.com. It would be really helpful to have a few more supporters on Saturday, as three of our regular helpers will be in Albury  for the RAR conference.
Swingeing cuts to asylum seekers'  benefits
Asylum seekers living in Australia  have been in receipt of the "Status Resolution Support Services" (SRSS) benefits whilst the government decides on their claim for protection - a process which can take years! The SRSS provides a living allowance - usually 89% of Newstart allowance - casework support, assistance in finding housing, and access to torture and trauma counselling. The government has now initiated a process for asylum seekers to "transition out" of these support services from 1st April.  Advocates have warned that these cuts will leave asylum seekers homeless and destitute.  The CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said that she had heard of parents affected by the cuts who were skipping meals to provide food and medicine for their families. She states: "It is appalling that the government is wanting to cut people off income support entirely. People will become homeless, their health will suffer and they will be unable to feed themselves."
This is yet another example of the heartless and punitive approach of our government towards some of the most vulnerable people in Australia.
Ten-year-old finally receives treatment in Australia
Two weeks ago, a ten-year-old boy who is suffering from acute mental health issues was finally transferred from Nauru to Australia for treatment, following the intervention of the courts. This child has been seriously unwell for some time, but the Australian authorities have tried to insist, notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary, that he could be adequately treated on Nauru. The government fought the transfer all the way, and even asked the judge to defer his decision for a further week. The judge refused the request, insisting that the child, accompanied by his mother, must be transferred to Australia immediately, as his life was in danger. The child is now being treated in an acute mental health facility in Australia. As Barry Cassidy reported on Insiders, the child does not have a name, but a number - AYX18- which he was given on arrival on Nauru. Let us remember, too, that this child was fit and healthy when he arrived on Nauru. His terrible situation is a direct result of our government's inhumane and punitive policy. We must keep up the fight to end this cruel madness.
Minister Dutton's phone number: 02 6277 7860. Email: minister@border.gov.au
A different rule for the well-connected
In stark contrast to the above story, it is clear that quite different rules for entry to Australia apply to certain groups of people. Following extensive requests under freedom of information legislation, limited details emerged last week about Minister Dutton's intervention in the case of an au pair arriving at Brisbane airport on 17th June 2015. The young woman did not have a visa to work as an au pair, but a quick phone call to an obviously highly connected individual produced an instant intervention from Minister Dutton who used his wide-ranging discretion to  immediately grant the young woman  a working visa.  This is his justification for his ministerial intervention: "Having regard to this person's particular circumstances and personal characteristics, I have decided to exercise my discretionary powers.....as it would be in the public interest to issue this person a visa. I have decided that as a discretionary and humanitarian act to an individual with ongoing needs it is in the interests of Australia as a humane and generous country to grant this person a visa." Such generosity and humanity clearly does not extend to the many thousands of asylum seekers languishing in offshore detention and struggling for survival in our major cities. Dutton's statement is just dripping with hypocrisy, something that we have come to expect, but must never accept.
UN official shocked by situation on Nauru
Last week, a UN official, Indrika Ratwatte, published a report about his recent visit to Nauru. He states that "the approach taken since 2013 has demonised and punished people we know need help and protection, evidenced by the fact that the vast majority have been recognised as refugees. Their continued suffering, with no end yet in sight for many, is plainly wrong. Worse than this, a policy that  knowingly and unrelentingly harms children for political reasons is an abomination. There can be no three-word slogans to justify it. There are no excuses......Good intentions no longer matter. It is time for action." Indrika Ratwatte reminds us that 40 children have spent their whole lives in detention on Nauru and that another 60 have spent half their lives there. This can never be justified, and we need to keep up with our campaigns, directed at both the government and the opposition, to bring this shameful chapter in our history to an end.


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