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RAR National Newsletter: Afghanistan, Workshops, Kristina Kenneally & Sieve-X





5 September 2021
Hello to all RAR Members and Supporters – Welcome to this RAR Update
“Afghanistan has become a giant prison with dinosaurs ruling it” – Muzafar Ali.
The project of “regime change” in Afghanistan has collapsed like a house of cards. In a few days in August, the Taliban advanced from mountainous strongholds to the seats of government.
We shouldn’t forget the powers of the Afghan people. Already demonstrations by women have been demanding the continuation of girls’ education.
Nonetheless, the Taliban will target women, the 6-million strong Hazara ethnic community, Afghan people who have worked with Coalition forces and with the Afghan Government, journalists, musicians and others. We want to get as many as we can visas for those who need to leave as refugees, although their leaving is going to be much more difficult now.
Also, there are thousands of Afghan refugees living in Australia on temporary visas. Clearly they cannot return to Afghanistan.
RAR has joined the calls – in multiple petitions and open letters, including those initiated by the Refugee Council (signed by 300-plus organisations) and by Action For Afghanistan (see and use the hashtag #ActionForAfghanistan) – for permanent visas for Afghan refugees in Australia or detained offshore, a one-off humanitarian intake of people from Afghanistan of 20,000 in addition to the current intake, and other measures to support Afghan refugees.
Canada and the UK have offered a further 20,000 refugee visas. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has only announced 3,000 places within the government’s current intake of 13,750.
We need to act now. Among the resources available is the RAR website’s letter writing kit. Here is national committee member Paul Dalzell talking about phoning MPs:
My commitment to the cause of refugees has grown over the years. Each step along the way has meant for me overcoming my own fear and sense of not being worthy. All along the way I have been challenged to ‘feel the fear and do it any way’ by remembering that the fear of those in detention or in danger of losing their lives is nowhere near mine. … I have said ‘yes’ to sponsoring refugee families from Afghanistan. It was the challenge of my own anger at the obfuscation of the politicians on the radio that got me over my fear of telephoning. Now I know the ropes. Phone the office, say my piece politely but  firmly, with a request for action. This kind of action makes me feel that what I can do, I am doing.


We also called for member groups to step up to sponsor Afghan citizens who are under immediate threat in the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.  We have had an amazing response.
Led by the (unstoppable!) Marie Sellstrom, RAR groups and individuals have submitted over 40 visa applications in the past week. All but 2 are for families. Thanks indeed to the people who have worked so hard to get these visas completed and loaded on the Government website (a challenge in itself).
The first eleven of the people we sponsored arrived in Adelaide recently and are in quarantine there. They are exhausted but relieved to be in Australia. Marie has been in touch with Muzafar Ali (many of you will know him from Cisarua Learning and The Staging Post) and our friends at Circle of Friends in Adelaide.  They are looking after their immediate needs.
We have worked closely with Greens Senators, Janet Rice and Nick McKim in particular, and staff from their offices.  Jesse Northfield, Senator Kenneally’s deputy Chief of Staff, has been involved as well, liaising with the Department of Home Affairs / Immigration.  We don’t have much information about the visa status of those who have arrived, but the politicians are trying to find this out.  We may need to resubmit visa applications before long.
RAR groups are working with Afghan refugees in their communities to identify family members under threat.  We are passing that information onto the politicians for them to advocate for visas. 
Many groups have asked how they can give financial support to those who do make it here.  We don’t have much information yet.  People have agreed to sponsor families without any indication of what this will cost them, but have done so confident that RAR groups and supporters will step up and help out when we know what costs are involved.
RAR will take donations that people may want to give, to cover costs associated with sponsorship and settling Afghan refugees over the coming months. Our bank account details are:  Rural Australians for Refugees Inc.;  BSB 633 000;  account number: 160 958 096; reference: Afghan sponsorship.  Note: donations through RAR are not tax-deductible. You should also send us an email at - that will save us wondering about some deposits!
We work closely with Circle of Friends in Adelaide.  They are also sponsoring many people from Afghanistan and donations to them are tax-deductible. Bank details are: BSB 633 000; account number: 150 721 298; reference:  Circle 127 + your surname. They also have a form on their website (they will need your email address for a receipt).
Individual RAR groups are also supporting community efforts: for example Swan Hill RAR is involved in efforts to host up to 30 Afghan refugees. $3500 is needed for expenses incurred in the application process for each emergency visa for family members of some of the hundreds of male Hazara refugees who, despite having lived and worked in the district from as early as 2001, hold temporary visas.
These families – wives and children - are in extreme danger and in desperate need of our compassion and our support. As partners and fathers, the men involved are stressed.
The Swan Hill Community Issues (SHUCCI, involving the Uniting Church) Group have been supporting over the year with information, services and volunteer assistance, which has built trust. Now funds are being raised to subsidise or fully pay the visa application expenses, including consultation with lawyers and migration agents, gathering and accurately translating information. There would also be costs for travel, quarantine and support once they are here.
The situation in Afghanistan is uncertain.  If these family members have a visa to enter Australia they are ready to travel as soon as the opportunity arises, which is important. Please help us get these visas – visit
RAR National Matters: Annual General Meeting  and Take Stock Survey and Workshops

The 2021 RAR Annual General Meeting will be on Saturday, 18 September, at 2pm, on Zoom. It will feature the annual report and financial statements, and we are also pursuing a guest speaker on the Afghanistan refugee situation – we hope to have an agenda out within a week.
Member groups should be organising to choose their delegate (one per member), although other people in each group can also attend. If necessary a group can choose a proxy instead. Groups can also put motions to the meeting.
Associates of RAR (supporters who can’t join a RAR group) are also welcome to attend.
Members got a separate email providing the Zoom details and the delegate and proxy nomination forms and motion form. Any queries about that, and any of our associates interested in coming, should email this address ( or call Jonathan (national secretary) on 0437 790 306 for the information you need (Zoom details, etc).
Meanwhile we are running our Take Stock project to try to understand how we can get the best value from our actions. The RAR National Committee has organised activities over the next three months for our members, and others we work with, to say what your ideas and views are about how we can work most effectively in the years ahead.
We will start with an online survey.  We would like as many people as possible to complete this short survey.  Our member groups, members of your groups, our supporters, other refugee support and advocacy groups, refugees and people seeking asylum who we have connected with in some way.  The survey is anonymous.  We would like you to circulate it as widely as you can and encourage your members and supporters to complete it.
Here is the link: It is open until 30 September.
We will also have intensive discussions through workshops supported by a skilled facilitator, with our newly-elected National Committee (the other job of the AGM), with key stakeholders, such as refugees (please see the recent email your group might have received about this) and our members. For the last, we are having two Zoom sessions, for which people can register to take part in more in-depth discussion, with the facilitator, about RAR and its future directions.  The dates for these are: Tuesday 7 September, from 6pm – 7.30pm and Wednesday 8 September from 9am – 10.30am.  There are eight places for each session so if you would like to attend, please email to register.
SIEV-X: 20th Anniversary Commemoration

On 19 October 2001, 353 asylum seekers drowned when the Indonesia fishing boat, which had been dubbed by Australian authorities the SIEV-X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel-X), sank en route to Australia. We will honour them, to remember them even though we never got to meet.
Not long after the tragedy, artist Kate Durham painted portraits of those who drowned. This commemoration will dwell on these portraits. Please join us for this solemn event on:
Tuesday Oct 19, 2021, 7pm (EST - Sydney)
Speakers: Kate Durham, artist; Julian Burnside, QC; Vivenne Glance and Ismail Afeif (poets in WA); People from Canberra SIEV-X memorial
Please register to attend at and then you will receive a confirmation email with a zoom link.
Kristina Kenneally

Senator Kristina Kenneally, Labor’s shadow minister for home affairs, has asked to meet with RAR members through a national Zoom forum. She explained she is still trying to meet with as many people as possible during the lockdowns
We’ve agreed, with the date and time being Monday 27 September, 6.30pm-7.30pm. Kristina will present for up to 20 mins, leaving most of the time for Q&A.
Register for this by emailing Louise at She will send you a Zoom link. If possible, submit questions in advance to the same email, with further questions to come during the session.
Jonathan Strauss
National Secretary Rural Australians for Refugees Australia
Rural Australians for Refugees on Twitter and Facebook.
RAR is a member of the Australian Refugee Action Network






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