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Award-winning film highlighting the history of conflict in Palestine


"Award-winning film sheds light on Palestinian history

‘Palestine Under Siege’ seeks to explain the background to the history of Palestinian displacement and dispossession.

AN award-winning film highlighting the history of conflict in Palestine will be screened in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen next week.

The powerful documentary, filmed recently in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel by Australian film makers John Reynolds and Jill Hickson, ‘depicts Palestinian life under military occupation’ and sets out the aspirations of Palestinians for self-determination.

‘Palestine Under Siege’ seeks to explain the background to the history of Palestinian displacement and dispossession through a series of interviews with survivors of the 1948 Nakba, and with prominent Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

They include Dr Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian politician and winner of the 2003 Australia Peace Prize, and Jeff Halper, Director of the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions.

The film is being promoted locally by the Bellingen and Nambucca District Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) group.

“Many RAR groups around Australia have been campaigning for months for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,” group spokesperson Mike Griffin explained.

“History tells us that violence does not solve the problems of the world. “Instead, it leads to unbelievable suffering and the displacement of millions of people.

“If there is to be peace in the Middle East, then there has to be a just settlement for the Palestinian people.”

The film will be shown at the Bellingen Memorial Hall at 7.00 pm on Wednesday 20 March, and at the Cavanbah Centre, Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour on Saturday 23 March at 7.30 pm.

There will be a Q and A session following the screenings.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at or by phoning 6569 5419.


Subject: Gaza Genocide: Dear Senator Dreyfus,


A view of the rubble of buildings hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Jabalia, Gaza strip, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Hatem Moussa / AP


Subject: Gaza Genocide

Dear Senator Dreyfus,

The genocide against the Palestinians continues apace. The ICJ’s directions to the Israeli government have been, and continue to be, completely ignored. More than 31,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children , have been killed, and now starvation is being used as a weapon of war.

There are more than 2,000 aid trucks sitting on the Gaza border, waiting to enter, but prevented from doing so by the Israeli military. Instead, we have the almost useless airdrops, designed to create a photo opportunity for the US administration as Biden struggles in the polls. And now we have the prospect of a floating harbour, predicted to take two months to assemble, by which time many more people, most of them vulnerable children, will have starved to death. Already, in the first ten days of March, 25 children have died of malnutrition and dehydration. The international aid agencies are unanimous in their calls for the border crossings to be opened, and for aid to be allowed in. They are rightly very sceptical about the effectiveness of air drops or a pontoon that will deliver too little, too late. But Biden has to look as if he is doing something positive, whilst continuing to supply Netanyaha with weapons and diplomatic cover, whilst Australia looks on, remaining mostly silent. The Australian government has had nothing to say about the ICJ’s directions.

When will the Us and its allies, which include Australia, DEMAND that this genocide must end? Why has your government  not called in the Israeli ambassador, and made it clear that the government will no longer support Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip?

It’s time for effective action, not words. That means a permanent ceasefire, NOW.

I’m reminded of a placard that I saw at a recent demonstration for the people of Gaza:

“You know what else died in Gaza? The myth of Western democracy and humanity”. I think that statement sums it up well.




Dear Senator Wong: Gaza

 Dear Senator Wong,

The situation in the Gaza Strip gets wore by the day. We now learn that some 2,000 aid trucks are stuck in Egypt and are being prevented from crossing into Gaza. Philippe Lazzarini reports that Israel has not allowed food to be delivered to Northern Gaza since January 25th.  Starving the population is a war crime. Collective punishment is a war crime.

A view of the rubble of buildings hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Jabalia, Gaza strip, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.  Hatem Moussa / AP

Will the Australian government ever call the Israeli government to account? This genocide should be condemned unequivocally. It’s past time to summon the Israeli ambassador and demand that his government agrees to an immediate ceasefire.

The Australian government’s silence on the question of genocide renders it complicit in the crime.

Mike G

Gaza genocide: Letter to Minister Shorten

 To: '' <>


Dear Minister Shorten,

I listened with interest to your interview on RN yesterday. As with every politician I have listened to, you were very strong in your support for Israel, and very strong in your (utterly proper) condemnation of the Hamas attack on 7th October, but, as for the plight of the Palestinians, that seems not to matter too much. Like many politicians, you would have us believe that this all started just a few months ago, but, as the Secretary General of the United Nations has pointed out,  the events of 7th October did not take place in a vacuum. The Israeli government, predictably, demanded his immediate resignation.

Unless and until the Western world  accepts that the current situation – one of displacement, dispossession and slaughter of the Palestinians – which has been ongoing since the Nakba of 1948 -is untenable, in contravention of international law, and therefore must be seriously addressed, then nothing will change.

You rightly condemned the steep rise in antisemitism in recent months. Sadly, and perhaps inevitably, people see what is going on in Gaza, associate the Israelis with the Jewish people, and react accordingly. If we are to reduce/ eliminate the evil of antisemitism, then it is important to address with honesty and principle the present genocidal actions of the Israeli apartheid government, which has so far killed or wounded more than 100,000 Gazans, most of them women and children.

It is beyond time for the Australian government to condemn the actions of the Israeli military, to demand an immediate ceasefire, and to make it clear to the Israelis that failure to comply will have serious consequences.

The Australian government should not be complicit in this genocide.

Mike G

The Gaza genocide: Letter to Senator Wong

Dear Senator Wong,

I watched your interview with Sarah Ferguson on 7.30  yesterday evening with increasing dismay. You were understandably and visibly struggling to defend the indefensible in relation to your decision to withhold funding from UNRWA with such lightning speed following the Israeli allegations about UNRWA employees’ involvement in the events of 7th October. Unsurprisingly, these allegations were published just hours after the very serious findings of the ICJ in relation to the unfolding genocide and lack of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. The ensuing media blitz has ensured that it is the UNWRA story, and not the far more serious findings of the ICJ,   that has dominated the headlines and that has worked well , in propaganda terms, for the Israelis and its steadfast supporters, including the Australian government.

Will the government, of which you are a senior and respected member, ever muster the moral courage to finally take a principled stance in relation to the death and destruction being inflicted on the Palestinian people by the far-right Netanyahu government?

Will there ever come a point at which the international community, which includes Australia, will insist on an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the illegal military occupation of the West Bank?

Will Western nations ever call time on the enduring suffering of the Palestinian people and finally insist that Israel complies with international law and countless UN resolutions?

The Palestinian people have endured 75 years of displacement, occupation and oppression at the hands of the Zionist colonisers.

Your frequent statements about the ongoing Israeli actions in Gaza and in the West Bank give me little cause for optimism.

Mike G

UNRWA: Letter to Senator Wong

 To: '' <>
Subject: UNRWA

Dear Senator Wong,

If I, as a high school principal, discovered that a member of my staff was grooming and sexually exploiting a teenage student, I would immediately suspend him and inform the police. The teacher would be arrested, investigated and would eventually face the court. The school would be investigated to ensure that all procedures to protect students were in place and had been followed.

CBS Image

In no circumstances would the Education Department punish all the staff and students by withdrawing the school’s funding.

It simply beggars belief that the Australian government should decide to withhold funding from UNRWA at a time when the Palestinian people of Gaza are facing starvation.

The Israeli anti-UNRWA agenda should be ignored. The funding should be immediately reinstated.

Mike G

To: '' : GAZA

Subject: Gaza

Image from CBS

Dear Senator Wong,

According to UNICEF,  Gaza is “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.” A recent OXFAM press release states: “It is unimaginable that the international community is watching the deadliest rate of conflict of the 21st Century unfold, whilst continuously blocking calls for a ceasefire.”

Every day that a ceasefire is not implemented means more deaths, more destruction and more despair for the Palestinians of Gaza.

It is not enough to call for a “sustainable” or a “ humanitarian” ceasefire.

The people of Gaza need a permanent ceasefire NOW, and it is surely the responsibility of the Australian government to unequivocally demand just that. No less.


To: '' South Africa's submission to ICJ

 To: '' <>
Subject: South Africa's submission to ICJ

Dear Senator Dreyfus,

Like many Australians, I am deeply concerned about the government’s silence in relation to the South African government’s recent submission to the IJC, which clearly and unequivocally sets out the charge of genocide in relation to the Israel government’s onslaught against the Palestinian population of Gaza. The South African government’s submission is very detailed, well documented and rooted in an examination of the facts on the ground. Put that together with daily reports of the relentless bombing and shelling of the Gaza Strip, the mounting death toll, the forced displacement of people towards the border with Egypt, the deliberate targeting of civilians, hospitals, schools, UNRWA facilities, and civil infrastructure, then it seems impossible not to conclude that the Israelis are committed to a strategy of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The Israelis can no longer pretend, and nor should its faithful allies in the West, that its response to the 7th October attack on its territory by Hamas militants is a proportionate military response. It is not. This is all part of an ongoing strategy of discrimination, oppression and displacement of the Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948.

Australia is a sovereign nation. We should not follow slavishly in the footsteps of the US, as we have so often in the past, and always with terrible consequences. Nor should we allow ourselves to be lured into the trap that seeks to conflate anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment with antisemitism.

Australia is a signatory to the UN Genocide Convention. Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip clearly contravene the Convention, and I therefore urge the Government to support the South African submission.

Mike #####


Satellite imagery shows a residential neighborhood in Gaza City which has been hit by Israeli airstrikes. Oct. 10, 2023. 

To: '' Subject: Gaza

Dear Senator Plibersek,

The reports from Israel about the Netanyahu government’s intentions for the future of the Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza strip are increasingly alarming.

Ministers in the Netanyahu government are now talking openly about the plan to drive out the Palestinian people and replace them with Israelis and Jewish colonists. The Agriculture Minister, Avi Dichter, boasts that: “We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba. Gaza Nakba 2023. That’s how it will end”. Netanyahu has told his party that the DRC is prepared to accept Palestinians, and that there are active discussions taking place with other countries.

Will the Australian government and the US finally draw a red line in the sand and make it clear to the Israelis that removing the Palestinian people from Gaza, under whatever pretext, simply cannot, and will not happen?

Let us be quite clear. Bombing the Gazans out of their homes, starving them, denying them medical aid and forcing them to mass on the Egyptian border so that, finally, they will leave “voluntarily” – which is clearly the Israeli strategy- will not be permitted by the international community.

It is well beyond time to call out and put an end to this genocide. Israel must be held to account for its war crimes, and the Australian government should not continue to sit on the fence.


To: '' Subject: Palestine

 To: '' <>
Subject: Palestine

Dear Senator Wong,

This is not a happy New Year for the Palestinian people of Gaza or the West Bank.

We now know that more than 80% of northern Gaza – homes, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, UNRWA facilities, mosques and churches have been seriously damaged or razed to the ground by the invading Israeli military forces. A New York Times article explains that this is worse than the WWII carpet bombing of Dresden. So much for all the reassurances, which you have been happy to support, that Israel is using the utmost restraint and seeks to avoid civilian casualties.

You must know that this is nonsense. What is unfolding is a deliberate act of genocide, a serious attempt to eradicate the Palestinian population of the Gaza strip. Most of the population has now been displaced. Nowhere is safe. We now have Israeli ministers calling for the remaining Palestinians to be expelled from Gaza, and for colonist Jewish settlers to take their place. This is illegal under international law, just as it is illegal for more than 600,000 Jewish settlers to take over and settle on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

We now know that more than 1% of the Palestinian people of Gaza have been killed, that thousands lie buried under the rubble, and that more than 50,000 have been injured. Just imagine for a moment if that were to be replicated in Australia, where our population is ten times greater than that of the Gaza strip.   That’s 300,000 people killed, 500,000 injured, and 50,000 buried under the rubble, most of them women and children. What, do you think, would be the international response?  Would we continue to supply the enemy with weapons, whilst urging the invading forces to show a little restraint? I think not.

It's beyond time for a reality check.

Israel needs to be finally held to account for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, which has been ongoing since 1948. The illegal settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem need to be abandoned and handed to the Palestinian people, on whose land they have been built. The international community needs to insist that the Israeli government complies with UN resolutions, or face international sanctions.



Film: Palestine Under Siege

 "The UN reported escalating concerns about a potential Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, where some 1.2 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on social media that Israel’s plans for complete victory over Hamas include ‘a powerful action in Rafah’, after allowing civilians to leave the battle zones. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said there is ‘absolutely no safe place in Rafah anymore’ and that civilians have nowhere to go. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected South Africa’s request for new measures against Israel in view of its threatened offensive against Rafah, saying Israel is ‘bound to comply with the existing measures’ to ensure the safety and security of Palestinians." Kaldor centre for International Refugee Law


Our third peaceful demonstration calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza

  "Our third peaceful demonstration calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza again attracted a record number of RAR supporters. We are utterly dismayed by the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, whilst the Western world looks on and urges “restraint”, whatever that is supposed to mean.  More than 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children , have been killed in this genocidal onslaught. We will continue to demonstrate until there is a meaningful, permanent ceasefire." Mike


Our next stall will be at the Coffs Harbourside market on Sunday 25th February.

See you at our next stall.

We had a busy time at Saturday’s Valla Beach market. Lots of positive interactions with market-goers, more than eighty signatures on our open letter to the Minister for Home Affairs, and $200 in sales, to be donated to the Asylum Seekers Centre. A big thank you to our great team of volunteers.

Giving Day 2024 - helping people find a safe haven


Dear RAR community,


Thank you for your ongoing support and passion for helping people seeking asylum and for your generosity towards the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC).



As you know, ASC has been a safe haven for people fleeing danger - war, famine, persecution in their home countries and poverty, violence and systemic injustice in Australia - for over 30 years.

The week leading up to 22 February 2024 will mark the Asylum Seekers Centre’s second annual Giving Day campaign. In 2023, our inaugural Giving Day campaign inspired hundreds of donations, increased awareness of ASC, and helped provide life-changing wraparound care for almost 4000 people seeking asylum in our community, and their families.

This year, to meet the increased need in our community, we've increased our target in the hope of raising $300,000 in much-needed funding, as well as growing the supporter base that underpins our vital services. 

We're asking friends like you to become Giving Day Champions by creating teams, donating to the campaign and sharing with your networks to help spread the word.

I've attached a PDF detailing ways you can support the day. Our webpage is in countdown mode, but you can start creating teams now.

We are grateful for your enduring support of ASC and appreciate any help you can provide to hit our target and inspire the wider community to help people seeking asylum.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Samantha Latto (she/her)

Fundraising Community Engagement Coordinator 

T: 02 9078 1900 | M: 0410 386 077


Asylum Seekers Centre

43 Bedford Street, Newtown NSW 2042


Our Roadside Demonstration


Our roadside demonstration for the people of Gaza attracted the largest number of supporters in our ten years of protest, with more than twenty people participating. The level of community anger and despair about the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the terrible death toll and the almost total destruction of the Gaza strip was very clear. The great majority of passing motorists expressed their support by honking their horns, waving , flashing their lights and shouting their support.

This genocide must end. The international community must insist on an immediate ceasefire. If the Israeli government fails to respond, then urgent sanctions must follow. This cannot continue.

Our next roadside protest will take place on Thursday 8th February on Waterfall Way in Bellingen, near the entrance to the golf club, from 10.00 am until 11.30 am. Join us if you can.




A fairly quiet market in Bellingen for us.

A fairly quiet market in Bellingen for us, as we were not in a great spot, but we still attracted quite a lot of interest, and collected over 60 signatures on our open letter to the Minister for Home Affairs. 

It was good to see that a group of committed young people had organised a rally for the Palestinians in Gaza, who are being subjected to a terrible genocide at the hands of the Israeli military, whilst the Western world looks on, or looks the other way.


A big thank you to our team of faithful volunteers.



Our first RAR demonstration in support of the Palestinian people

 "A great turnout in Bellingen on Thursday morning for our first RAR demonstration in support of the Palestinian people. We had fifteen supporters waving their flags and placards, and the support from passing motorists was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. 


We are mindful of the fact that the great majority of the people in Gaza are refugees and their descendants from the terrible Nakba of 1948. Their current plight, facing constant bombardment, the destruction of their homes, hospitals, schools, UNRWA facilities and infrastructure is indescribable. There is nowhere safe for them to go, and some 30,000 of them, mostly women and children, have been killed. We need a ceasefire now, and we need a just settlement for the Palestinian people. There can be no peace without justice.

We will demonstrate again in the same spot on Thursday 25th January."



Letter From The Asylum Seekers Centre


As we come to the end of another year, I find myself once again endlessly impressed and inspired by the work we have been able to do with the support of our amazing staff, volunteers, and supporters like you.

While the geopolitical landscape around the world and the policy environment here in Australia remains challenging, the incredible courage, persistence, and kindness of those seeking asylum, and those who dedicate themselves to supporting them, helps motivate and energise.

As our volunteer coordinator Charles Bartella, who was formerly supported by the ASC, puts it, “I still remember all of the volunteers who supported me through my journey to getting Australian protection… Your help, even if it was brief, is valued by our community and is remembered for many years and is acknowledged through generations.” 

This year has been characterised by opportunities, victories, and challenges.

The long-awaited Nixon Review into Australia’s visa system released in October has potentially profound implications for those who have been seeking asylum for up to 10 years. Providing certainty and a safe future in Australia for those who have lived, worked, and built lives in our community for a decade must be a priority for the federal government in 2024.

Similarly, the High Court’s recent ruling that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful was a triumph for human rights and the rule of law, bringing an end to a 20-year cycle of uncertainty and inhumanity.

It would be remiss to ignore the toxic debate and knee-jerk policy reaction that followed, which Greens leader Adam Bandt aptly criticised as a “race to the bottom”. As we look ahead to 2024, we must not allow ourselves to be dragged back to a time when the slogan “stop the boats” crowded out the inhumanity of doing so.

In good news, the Asylum Seekers Centre celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. The journey from a small house in Surry Hills to today’s facility in Newtown has been long but immensely rewarding.

At the event celebrating our milestone, Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar spoke of the transformational power of art, and of an ambition for the future of community cohesion here in Australia. As Moz so eloquently put it:

“There is no fence between you and I anymore. You are my family.”

This future relies on all of us. And with plenty of opportunities and challenges ahead, we must redouble our efforts.

Thank you for all your support in 2023, and as attention turns to the new year, I look forward to working with you, our supporters, to help those who need it most. 

From everyone at the Asylum Seekers Centre, have a restful and peaceful holiday season.

Best wishes,

Frances Rush OAM
CEO, Asylum Seekers Centre

P.S. I hope you were able to read the letter we recently sent you from a young person seeking asylum, Arben*, outlining his experiences growing up ‘in limbo’ in Australia. Arben’s is a voice that is often not heard, and he speaks of the many barriers he experienced being unable to access the same opportunities as his peers. You can help more young people like Arben get access to education, employment pathways, healthcare, and social opportunities in 2024, by making a tax-deductible donation here. Thank you.

*Arben has chosen a different name to remain anonymous


Dear Minister Giles

                                                                                                                                                                                       7th December 2023

Dear Minister Giles,

Please find enclosed an open letter, addressed to you, and signed by 245 people who recently visited our Rural Australians for Refugees market stall. The letter states:



We were delighted to learn recently that you had decided to grant the Sri Lankan asylum seeker Neil Para and his family permission to remain permanently in Australia. That was an eminently sensible decision, and a timely reminder that you are able to exercise your authority to intervene in these cases.

There are some 10,000 other asylum seekers in the same situation as the Para family, and the Biloela family before them. Must they each, in turn, win the active support of their local communities to draw attention to their plight? That should not be necessary, nor is it practical. Instead, you should finally recognise that it is time to end the uncertainty for these families and grant them permission to remain in Australia. They have suffered enough. They want to get on with their lives. Please act now to end their torment.

These people pose no threat to our country nor to their communities. Their claims to remain here should be urgently reviewed, with a view to granting permanent residency to all those who are found to have a right to our protection under international law. The government should urgently allocate the necessary resources to expedite their claims.

I look forward to receiving a positive response from your department.

Yours sincerely,

Mike G....

Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR




Our concert in Mylestom Hall on Sunday 19th November was a sell-out! 

The audience enjoyed great performances by the Sawtello Gospel choir and by our local singer-songwriters Snez and Stewart Peters. During the interval we enjoyed delicious treats made by our resident chefs Ton and Chris.


Ticket sales amounted to $2,400. When we add in sales of raffle tickets, RAR merchandise sales, CD sales and donations, the final figure came to $3,280. That is a great result, and means that we will certainly exceed last year’s record donation of $17,400 to the Asylum Seekers Centre. We will let you know the final figure for 2023 in our January newsletter.

The raffle was drawn during the interval and was won by Gillian Workman, who is one of our longstanding volunteers. Congratulations, Gillian!

A huge thank you to the Sawtello Gospel choir, their Musical Director Andrew Davis, and to Snez and Stewart for their tremendous generosity in performing for us without charge. Thank you also to Lisa Milner for putting the whole show together and to our great team of volunteers.