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Newsletter for 24 June 2015 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Hi everyone

Breaking News

From: John Pollock
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 2:09 PM
To: Anthony Albanese ; Sharon Bird ; Chris Bowen ; Gai Brodtmann ; Tony Burke ; Anna Burke ; Mark Butler ; Terri Butler ; Anthony Byrne ; Jim Chalmers ; Nick Champion ; Lisa Chesters ; Jason Clare ; Sharon Claydon ; Julie Collins ; Pat Conroy ; Michael Danby ; Mark Dreyfus ; Justine Elliot ; Kate Ellis ; David Feeney ; Laurie Ferguson ; Joel Fitzgibbon ; Andrew Giles ; Gary Gray ; Alan Griffin ; Jill Hall ; Chris Hayes ; Ed Husic ; Stephen Jones ; Catherine King ; Andrew Leigh ; J Macklin ; Alannah MacTiernan ; Richard Marles ; Rob Mitchell ; Shayne Neumann ; Brendan OConnor ; Clare Oneil ; Julie Owens ; Melissa Parke ; Graham Perrett ; Tanya Plibersek ; Bernie Ripoll ; Amanda Rishworth ; Michelle Rowland ; Joanne Ryan ; Bill Shorten ; Warren Snowdon ; Wayne Swan ; Matt Thistlethwaite ; Kelvin Thomson ; Maria Vamvakinou ; Tim Watts ; Tony Zappia
Cc: RAR Bellingen Nambucca ; Mike Griffin

Subject: High Court Challenge to Detention Centre Legality
Dear Labor MP’s,

This newsletter is stored here for archive purposes. To read complete newsletter click below

Reports on the ABC News website,, state that the ALP has been asked to support the government to subvert the current case before the High Court challenging the legality of Australia’s Offshore Detention Centres. I beg you all to draw a line in the sand and let this case take its course. It is time for the ALP to regain the moral high ground in this tortured debate. Time to say enough is enough. We (Australia) have become an international pariah over our illegal treatment of IMA’s (Irregular Maritime Arrivals). We have consistently broken covenant after covenant of UN Human Rights agreements. People have died on our watch, been further traumatised and children still remain in illegal detention. We have sought to shift the responsibility that is ours under the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees to countries in our region that are not equipped to carry out these responsibilities. These centres are fully funded by our government and are morally and legally our responsibility. It is time to close these centres and do the right thing. Process the asylum  claims of these desperate people in Australia now.

If necessary cross the floor and declare your humanity.


John Pollock
for Bellingen and Nambucca Districts Rural Australians for Refugees

Picnic at Urunga on THIS Sunday 28 June 2015

"With courage let us all combine” is the theme for Refugee Week in Australia for 2015 to 2017. 

Come and help celebrate this theme with Bellingen and Nambucca Districts RAR at the Park opposite the Ocean View Hotel in Urunga on  Sunday 28 June 2015 from 12 noon. 

Bring a chair and picnic lunch (electric BBQs available if you wish to cook).

Bring a placard to show your support for asylum seekers. We will take a group photo to help promote our cause. A great chance to meet our group and help plan future activities.

The full theme from RCOA was

"Taken from the second verse of the national anthem, the theme celebrates the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice. It serves as a call for unity and for positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home."

Send us details of your placard and we will put them on the blog.


Peter Sobey's letter to Nambucca Guardian News

Dear Editor,

This is Refugee Week (14-20 June) and I would like to take this opportunity to point out four facts about refugees and asylum seekers that are often misunderstood.

Fact 1: It is not a crime to come to Australia by boat without a visa and ask for protection. Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are basic freedoms that everyone is entitled to and they are hard won by many people making huge sacrifices over a long period of time. They are not to be let go of because of a spurious fear campaign.

Fact 2: There is no official queue for people coming to Australia seeking a safe place to live. The United Nations process of resettlement is complex and changing. It is more like a lottery than a queue.

Fact 3: Only 1% of the worlds’ refugees are likely to be given safe haven in any given year.

Fact 4: There are almost 18 million refugees and asylum seekers in the world.

I think that the most important first step that people can make on this important issue is to imagine what you would do if you were in a situation where you were being persecuted because of your religion, your skin colour, your ethnicity, or your political beliefs. If your daughters were threatened with rape, your sons with being press-ganged into a militia.

Read the stories of refugees or watch some of the many documentaries. Through all the trauma and despair you will find a story of hope. Hope that ones children do not have to suffer the same traumas.

Is it any wonder that asylum seekers would like to come here. We have the rule of law, a country at peace, the only continent with no landmines, a generous people with “boundless plains to share”. 

To be sure, we can’t take everybody, there needs to be a process, and that is a discussion that needs to continue. But let us not succumb to populist fears of invasion by the “other”.

Peter Sobey

Unions for Refugees
from National RAR

Unions for Refugees have posted a message about the ACTU policy on facebook. 

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) passed an excellent new policy on asylum seekers and refugees at its May National Congress. The ACTU is the peak body of 46 unions representing 1.8 million workers across Australia.
We ask for your support in publicising this policy as widely as possible, and encouraging people to take action on it.
1. Read the policy, and distribute it any way you can: at work, by email, on facebook.
2. Write to your union's leadership to congratulate them on supporting the policy.
3. Think about ways you can encourage your union to implement the policy. Unions for Refugees is happy to organise refugee speakers for meetings and a stall at union conferences. We can provide leaflets for workplaces and union induction and training courses. 

The ACTU's new policy should be read in full, but some of the main points:
- recognise that seeking asylum is a fundamental human right
- calls for onshore processing of applications for asylum, and for the detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island to be closed
- calls upon government to ensure that there is no discrimination in the processing of applications for asylum based on people's mode of arrival
- calls on Australia to increase its intake of refugees to meet the levels received by other industrialised countries
- calls on Australian parliamentarians take leadership and reframe the national debate about refugees and asylum seekers
- calls for Temporary Protection Visas to be abolished
- calls for an end to turn-backs of boats carrying asylum seekers
- condemns the Australian government's Memorandum of Understanding with Cambodia and calls on aid agencies to desist in assisting the re-settlement of asylum seekers in Cambodia
- condemns indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees, and says that mandatory detention is not necessary
- calls on the federal government to stop the outsourcing of detention to private, for-profit companies
- calls for the extension of the right to work to asylum seekers
- opposes forcible deportation

Refugee Welcome Zones
from National RAR

The email below is from Ballina RAR who have just had the satisfaction of seeing their mayor sign the Refugee Welcome Zone on behalf their Council.

We now have 115 Councils and Shires who are declared Refugee Welcome Zones. According to Wikipedia, there are currently 565 local councils in Australia.  Let's see if we can encourage the other 450 Councils to join this initiative.

If your Council has not yet signed up, you can find more information at the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) website -

Congratulations to Ballina on becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone ... and to the other 114 cities, towns or shires. A full list is on the RCOA website.

Warm regards

Our group  encouraged our mayor sign the Refugee Welcome Zone Declaration for our shire. It was signed on Saturday. I first heard about the declaration in February, when a councillor from Byron Bay told me he was encouraging that council. Byron Shire signed a week before Ballina Shire. Lismore council signed in 2003. Canberra signed last Friday

Since hearing about the declaration two other groups have asked me about it. That made me realise that there could be a lot of groups that have no idea about the declaration. Would you please share info about it with RAR?

The declaration is put out by the Refugee Council of Australia and you can get the documentation from them. You probably already have these details but I went to

Thanks for all you do.

Warm regards,
Ballina Region for Refugees   

Response from Lisa Singh Labour Senator for Tasmania concerning Labor Party Policy on Asylum Seekers

Dear Mike

Thank you for your email regarding asylum seekers.

I strongly believe that people have the right to seek asylum in this country, and as Australians we have an obligation to show humanity and welcome refugees to settle in our rich multicultural society.

The Abbott Government has undermined the Australian public’s right to be informed and has failed to take responsibility for the proper administration of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, resulting in increasing danger and inhumanity in Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

I believe that all sides of politics have a responsibility to put political point scoring aside and work on refugee policy in a way that affords asylum seekers fairness, safety and dignity.  

The Labor Party is currently updating our Party Platform on this important issue.  In the lead up to National Conference in July I am playing an active role in this process and will continue to closely examine how we can approach those policies issues in a humane manner that complies with our international humanitarian law obligations.

Like you, I believe Labor must adopt a principled policy stance which reflects our international obligations.  I look forward to participating in this debate at our National Conference in July.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me on this important issue.  

Gag order

The introduction of the Australian Border Force Act 2015 in July is a further step in the attempt to silence doctors and others who witness harm to asylum seekers and human rights abuses.
The implications span well beyond the professionals involved; it signals a fundamental contempt for freedom of opinion and the right to question the government’s approach to human rights and democracy.
The phenomenon of the doctor whistleblower is not new; doctors have long acted to protect groups in the face of persecution and harm.
The failure to speak out about harm at the hands of the state is equally important and we should question clinicians who choose to support the immigration regime when their attempts to bring about change fail.
The 15 Christmas Island doctors who wrote a public letter of concern about standards of medical care for detainees did so after failure to influence in any other way.
Similarly concerned clinicians have raised issues about sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children on Nauru and the poor treatment of a fracture in an 11-year-old boy. Doctors are also involved in the inquiry into the death of a Nauru man from septicaemia and in highlighting high rates of mental health problems in detained populations.
Under the new Act, they all face possible imprisonment for two years for complying with standard professional obligations.
A culture of fear and secrecy based on threats to imprison and punish clinicians can only serve to further erode any semblance of an immigration system that that is based on humanitarian principles.
At worst, it creates a secret state where immigration controls health practice in the interests of so-called border protection and doctors involved are essential colluding with human rights abuses.
It’s time to pass control of health care in detention facilities from immigration to health authorities. Clinical involvement in the current system is unsustainable.


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