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Newsletter for 22 May 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Next Roadside Demo - Toormina, Thursday 31st May 2:30pm

Next market stall - Valla Beach Sat 2nd June
Responses from politicians
Fundraiser Sunday 10th June 2pm


Roadside demonstration report

Due to the absence on holiday of quite a number of our regular supporters, we had a somewhat depleted, though no less enthusiastic group of people for our demonstration opposite the Base hospital in Coffs Harbour last week. Lots of support from passing motorists, as always, with just a tiny minority of dissenters. Those of us participating in these regular demos are convinced that they provide a really positive way of getting the message across about the cruelty and inhumanity of our government’s asylum and refugee policy. Advertising does work, which is why companies spend billions of dollars promoting their brands. Our advertising is free, but no less powerful! And, like advertising, it is our persistence that makes our message stick.
Our next roadside demonstration will be on Thursday 31st May on Hogbin Drive, Toormina from 2.30 to 4.00 pm. You will find us near to what used to be the Sawtell Nursery. Please join us if you can.

Bellingen market report

We had a great market in Bellingen on Saturday. The sun shone, the crowds came, and we had lots of positive and interesting conversations with market-goers. Some 200 people signed our new open letter, which is addressed to the participants at the Labor Party conference, to be held at the end of July.  The conference will determine the Party’s asylum policy for the Federal election, so it is really important that the voices of the people are heard. Our open letter has been sent to all other RAR groups in Australia, and completed forms are beginning to arrive in the mail.
It is always interesting to learn from people who have had direct experience of working on Nauru or Manus, whether they be medical staff, social workers or teachers. One person who visited our stall on Saturday and who had worked on Manus, told us that the one thing that gave the men on Manus hope was to see groups like ours advocating passionately for the closure of these torture camps.
Our next market will be at Valla Beach on Saturday 2nd June from 9.00 am until 1.30 pm. If you can help out for an hour our two, then please let Mike know be emailing him

Responses from politicians

About a month ago, Mike posted 45 letters to Federal Labor MPs and Senators who are listed as being on the left of the party. Accompanying the letters were copies of our open letter and personal letter to Bill Shorten. To date, we have received one letter in response, from  Ross Hart MP, the member for Bass. Whilst repeating the party line that refugees and Manus must be resettled in third countries (and therefore not in Australia), he does state that: “It is, or should be to the eternal shame of the Australian public that refugees and asylum seekers have been used as political tools.” He ends by saying “Please maintain your efforts in changing public attitude to indefinite detention.” You can read the correspondence on our blog.
Much less encouraging were the views of the Labor Party candidate for Cowper, Andrew Woodward, who attended the Bellingen market at the weekend.  He had no interest in our call to end offshore detention, and repeatedly and confidently asserted that the Labor party policy on this issue would not change this side of the Federal election. He claims that the Party is following the wishes of the Australian people, that the Party wants to win the next election, and that supporting asylum seekers is a vote loser. Sadly, yet another illustration of how political calculation trumps principle and compassion.
The message from both these politicians is that we should not expect any principled leadership in bringing to an end  the pain and suffering of refugees languishing for almost five years on Manus and Nauru. Change will only happen if enough of us demand it, which is why our work is so important.

Fundraising concert : Sunday 10th June at 2.00 pm

A reminder that our fundraising concert will take place at the Nambucca Community and Arts Centre  on 10th June, commencing at 2.00 pm. Tickets are on sale at The Alternative Bookshop in Bellingen and Helloworld Travel in Nambucca Heads. Alternatively you can reserve your tickets for collection at the front desk by phoning Marlene on 6569 5419. We have a great programme of classical music and some jazz by well known local pianist Heather Rose, and a short set by the indomitable Wild Women of Anywhere Beach. Please buy your tickets soon.
If you would like to donate a raffle prize, then please email Marlene at:
A poster of the event is attached to this newsletter. If you could print it off and display it in your local area, your place of work or your community centre, that would be greatly appreciated. We hope to raise a four-figure sum to support the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown. They are under huge pressure at present as a result of the government’s  recent cruel decision to abolish financial support for asylum seekers living in our cities as they wait for a resolution to their claims for protection.


We have just learned that Wendy Sharpe, one of Australia’s most awarded artists, has agreed to donate an art work for us to sell at the concert. Wendy has been awarded the Suleman Prize, the Portia Geach Memorial Prize (twice) the Archibald Prize, and many others. She has held some 60 solo exhibitions around Australia and internationally.  In 2014 she created a series of portraits of asylum seekers in Australia entitled “Seeking humanity: Portraits and stories of asylum seekers and refugees.” In 2015, she became Ambassador for the Asylum Seekers Centre.
Wendy has a studio in inner Sydney, and is asking if someone could collect the painting from her. So, an urgent message. Is there anyone out there who will be travelling to Sydney in the next week or so and who would be willing to collect the work for us? Please get in contact with Marlene urgently either by phone or email if you can help.
A huge that you to Wendy Sharpe for her generosity, and to Marlene for making this happen.

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