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Newsletter for 25 October - Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Report from Harbourside Market stall
Next roadside demonstration - Coffs Harbour Big Banana Thurs. 27th Oct
Bellingen fundraising concert - Nov 27th
Our new petition

Report from our Harbourside Market on 23rd October

We had a good market in Coffs Harbour at the weekend, with five of our supporters joining John and Mike at different times in the morning. We met lots of people, many of whom had seen, and were appalled by, the revelations in last week’s Four Corners Report. People were very ready to sign our new petition, take information leaflets, donate to the Asylum Seekers Centre and buy our merchandise. From time to time we meet people who have had direct experience of Australia’s detention centres, both onshore and offshore. An ex-Army Intelligence officer recently spoke movingly about his experiences on Manus and Nauru. One comment that I will remember forever was along the lines of “You people are here because you believe that the conditions on Nauru are dreadful. Well, let me let you, they are worse than you could possibly imagine, and if you spent a week there, you would not sleep well at night again.”
Our next market stall will be at the Bellingen market on Saturday 19th November. Why not put the date in your diary and come and join us?

Roadside demonstration: Thursday 27th October at the Big Banana.

Our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday, 27th October in front of the Big Banana from 3.00 pm until 4.30 pm. Several of our regular team will be away  this week, so we are urgently seeking help from our supporters to join us for this demo. It’s a great way to bring the cause of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus and Nauru to the attention of the public. We are a visual reminder to people that the issue will not go away simply be shrouding the activities of our government in secrecy and  spending large amounts of money on spin doctors. Please consider giving up a little time to help get across the message that you will not look the other way and that you will stand up for refugees. If you can help, then please email Robin at:
Sanctuary Australia Fundraising Concert: Bellingen 27th November at 3.00 pm

Sanctuary Australia is a local charity, based in Coffs Harbour, which helps to settle approved refugees into the local community. They have been doing amazing work in the area for many years and rely on the help of sponsors and donors to keep up their work. OnSunday 27th November, starting at 3.00 pm in the Memorial Hall in Bellingen, there will be a fundraising recital with David Helfgott, who will be playing Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Chopin. The programme will also include Yantra De Vilder, who will present her unique and beautiful award-winning performance of “HAIKU”. Tickets are $68 or $60 concessions.  You can get further details by phone : 6652 2127, or go to the website at:  Or you can book online at:

Our new petition

We launched our new petition, which is in the form of an open letter to our local Member of Parliament at the market on Sunday. The letter reads:
“Dear Mr Hartsuyker,
Evidence from professionals working in the detention centres on Manus and Nauru, together with reports from international organisations, make shocking reading and viewing. These centres are clearly designed to inflict suffering and to break the spirits of innocent people. Evidence of physical and sexual abuse are well documented, and go unpunished. It is time to put an end to this shameful policy. We urge you, as our representative in Parliament, to make a firm commitment to the urgent closure of these centres and to the resettlement in Australia of asylum seekers and refugees currently on Manus and Nauru.”
We will collect further signatures at the markets in Bellingen and Valla Beach, and we are attaching it to this newsletter in the hope that you will print it and try to get 10 signatures from friends, colleagues and family members. If just half our supporters were to each collect 10 signatures, that would amount to more than 2000 signed petitions. That would be such a powerful message to send to our elected representative!
Please give it a go, and return your signed petitions to the market in Bellingen on 19th November, or to the Valla Beach market on  3rd December, or post to Mike at : Mike Griffin, 39, Rogers Drive, Valla Beach, NSW 2448.  (Email copies are not permissible for petitions).

Amnesty Report on Nauru
After unprecedented access to Nauru in July of this year, Amnesty International have released a major report entitled “Island of Despair ”. To arrive at the report, Amnesty interviewed 62 refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and corroborated testimony from interviews using thousands of pages of medical reports and statements to police. The report concluded that :
“ The Australian government is responsible for deliberate and systematic torture of refugees on Nauru and should be held accountable under international law”. 
Evidence gathered by Amnesty includes detailed allegations of recurrent self-harm and attempted suicide, children being hit by teachers and threatened with machetes, deficient medical care and persecution similar to that which refugees had experienced in their homelands. Amnesty concluded that the offshore processing regime was “explicitly designed to inflict incalculable damage on hundreds of women, men and children” as an act of deterrence, by isolating them on a remote place from which they cannot leave, with the specific intention that these people should suffer harm”. 
Amnesty’s report paints a picture of a dysfunctional and cruel system where Australia exercises strict control but publicly passes the buck to Nauru, and where on-the-ground authorities lack the power to make decisions without Canberra’s permission.

Dr Anna Neitat, Amnesty’s senior director of research who travelled to Nauru, said that Australia should be held accountable for breaching the Convention Against Torture , with a possibility that officials could be prosecuted under international law.

The report states “The Australian government is not even hiding the fact that the key purpose of this policy is deterrence. When you set up a system that inflicts deliberate harm as a deterrence it’s really hard to find another name for it other than torture.”
Furthermore it is being shrouded in shocking secrecy.
Malcolm Turnbull this week defended his governments policy and reiterated the claim that offshore detention is saving lives by ‘stopping the boats’. Amnesty, however, concludes that Australia had shifted the goalposts on what other countries considered to be acceptable treatment of refugees, and had “already harmed global standards on refugee protection.”

There is overwhelming evidence that offshore detention is unsustainable and there is increasing public pressure for this policy to end. Let’s keep up the pressure.

Marlene Griffin

Our blog is at and includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers

check out the index of subjects on the blog

The newsletter is sent to 453 recipients


Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

The National RAR web site is at 
The National RAR facebook site is at  RAR Facebook


Newsletter for 18 October 2016 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Roadside demonstration report - Thursday 13th Toormina
Next market stall - Coffs Harbour Sunday 23rd
How much does secrecy cost?

Our recent roadside demonstration in Toormina

Unfortunately the weather was unkind to us last Thursday when seven of us braved the wind and the rain to publicise our messages about offshore detention. We stuck it out for three quarters of an hour before calling it a day. That apart, we had lots of very positive responses from passing motorists, many of whom were on the school run, so hopefully we  generated some conversation topics between parents and their children.
Our next roadside demonstration will be on Thursday 27th October  outside the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour between 3.00 pm and 4.30 pm. Please put the date in your diaries and  join us if you can. Let’s make this one a big one to make up for the disappointment of Toormina. And let’s hope that the sun shines!
Next Market: Harbourside Market, Coffs Harbour, Sunday 23rd October

Our next market is this coming Sunday, 23rd October, in Coffs Harbour. Mike and John (now that he is home from his six-week holiday in South Africa) will be setting up our stall at 7.00 am and are hoping that people will join them for an hour or so between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm. If you can help out, please email Mike at:  to let him know the time that you plan to arrive. A great opportunity for you to show that you care about asylum seekers, to engage in discussion with others and to enjoy the occasion. As you will be aware from last week’s newsletter, our petition containing almost 1400 signatures has now been sent to the Prime Minister. At this market and at others up until December, therefore, we will be inviting people to sign an open letter to our local MP, Luke Hartsuyker, calling on him to represent the views of his many constituents who are calling for an end to the government’s cruel and unlawful asylum policy.
How much does it cost not to tell us about offshore detention?

We already know that the government spends approximately $500,000 per year for each asylum seeker or refugee currently held in indefinite detention. We also know that the government goes to great lengths to keep the whole operation secret, on the basis that the less we know about the brutal treatment of asylum seekers, the less we are likely to agitate about it. But if it’s all so secret, why does the government spent such a lot of money “explaining” things to us?  Minister Dutton, it turns out, employs a veritable army of spin doctors, media monitors, communications staff and external consultants. The Minister’s department has 82 communications staff, 22 of whom are dedicated to “24/7 media operations”. The Minister himself has three ministerial media officers. The total bill for not telling us about what is going on cost the taxpayer in excess of $9 million last year.

Our blog is at and includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers

check out the index of subjects on the blog

The newsletter is sent to 414 recipients


Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

The National RAR web site is at 


Newsletter for 11 October 2016 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Roadside demonstration - Thursday 13th Toormina
Next market stall - Coffs Harbour 23rd
Our petition to parliament
Forgotten asylum seekers on Christmas Island

Our next roadside demonstration: Thursday 13th October, in Toormina

A reminder that our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday 13th October from 3.00 pm until 4.30 pm  in Toormina. We will be located on Hogbin Drive, on the opposite side of the road to the Sawtell  Garden Centre, towards the roundabout where Hogbin Drive meets Sawtell Road.  A good reference point is the fire station, which is located next to the roundabout, at the beginning of Hogbin Drive. It would be great to have a sizeable turnout for our demonstration, so if you could join us, we would be delighted to see you. Please email Robin at: to let him know that you plan to participate. We have lots of banners and placards to share.
Next market stall: Coffs Harbour, Sunday 23rd October

Our next market stall will be at the Coffs Harbourside market on Sunday 23rd October. As always, we are looking for help between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm. If you could give up an hour or so of your time to help out at the stall, that would be much appreciated. The markets are always pleasant occasions, and we never fail to meet a range of interesting people with their different insights into the current government policy on refugees and asylum seekers. If you are able to help, please let Mike know by emailing him at
Our petition to Parliament

We have finally sent off our latest petition to Parliament, signed by almost 1,400 people. The petitions have been sent, with an accompanying letter, to the Prime Minister. Copies of the letter, together with personal letters, have also been sent to Bill Shorten and to Richard Di Natale.
We collected just over 550 signatures at our regular market stalls, with the remainder coming from RAR groups around the nation. A great team effort! Let us hope that this continued pressure, which we intend to maintain, will finally have some tangible impact on Coalition and Labor policies.
The three letters are attached to this newsletter for your information. (shown in posts below)
The forgotten asylum seekers on Christmas Island

Whilst our main focus has always been on asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus, it is worth remembering that there is still a small number of asylum seekers languishing in indefinite detention on Christmas Island. Two refugee activists, Pamela Curr and Sister Brigid Arthur, visited the detention centre in August, and their report makes harrowing reading. There are about 30 male asylum seekers sprinkled among a detainee population of some 200, who Minister Dutton has described as “some of the country’s most hardened criminals”.
The two visitors interviewed 25 asylum seekers, and described a group of men who are “utterly without hope, almost all of them broken human beings”. Their situation is defined by loneliness, despair and fear of the other inmates. Many of them do not know why they were transferred to Christmas Island. Others had been charged with minor offences in Australia and had had their right to remain cancelled by the Minister. It is well-nigh impossible for them to get proper legal representation so far from the Australian mainland, making the risk of serious miscarriage of justice very real. They remain, therefore, in indefinite limbo, with no hope of  freedom or resettlement, and suffering serious mental harm.
Why do we continue to spend huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to treat people with such inhumanity?

Our blog is at and includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers

check out the index of subjects on the blog

The newsletter is sent to 414 recipients


Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

The National RAR web site is at 


letter to PM Turnbull enclosing petition signed by 1396 people -resettle all asylum seekers in Australia 10 October 2016

            10th October  2016

Dear Mr Turnbull,

Please find enclosed a petition organised by Rural  Australians for Refugees, which has been signed by 1396 people. The petition reads:
"We, the undersigned, call on the leaders of all political parties to work together to bring to an end the cruel, inhumane and unsustainable offshore detention arrangements for asylum seekers and refugees. We specifically ask the Parliament to:
·       process all asylum seekers currently held in offshore detention, without further delay.
·       resettle in Australia all asylum seekers currently in offshore detention centres who are found to be eligible for our protection under international law.
·       permanently close all offshore detention facilities in the months ahead."
Our strong view, now supported by the majority of the Australian people, is that the offshore detention regime needs to be urgently brought to an end. The current policy is deeply shameful, immoral, cruel and hugely expensive. Despite the Government's attempts to hide the appalling physical and mental abuse inflicted on the detainees, the evidence of abuse reported by reputable organisations and individual professionals with first-hand experience of the situation is clear, unambiguous and shocking.
 We should not be treating our fellow human beings, who have committed no crime, in this way. It is utterly reprehensible to use a group of people as human shields to protect us from other would-be asylum seekers. We can do better than this. We therefore call on the Government to take urgent steps to close all offshore facilities without further delay and to bring the asylum seekers and refugees to Australia for processing and resettlement.
On behalf of Rural Australians for Refugees, I look forward to your constructive and positive response.
                                                                                                            Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                            Mike Griffin
Copied to:
Bill Shorten MP

Senator Richard Di Natale

letter to opposition leader, petition signed by 1396 people and call on Labor party to take principled stand on this issue 10 October 2016

10th October 2016

Dear Mr Shorten,

Please find attached a letter to the Prime Minister which sets out the deep concerns shared by many Australians about our nation's cruel, inhumane and extremely expensive offshore detention policy. As you will note, the letter was accompanied by a petition signed by 1396 people.
We are aware of the concerns that the Labor Party has voiced in recent times about indefinite offshore detention and we have noted the proposals about greater transparency and oversight of the detention centres. These proposals do not, however, go anywhere near far enough. The constant mantra of "anywhere but Australia", linked to what amounts to the coercion of refugees to return to their countries of origin is simply wrong, unprincipled and morally reprehensible.
We therefore call upon the Labor Party to finally take a principled stand on this issue. We urge you to accept that ending this cruel treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is an urgent priority, which needs to be dealt with now, rather than later. The solution has to involve the resettlement in Australia of the genuine refugees who make up the great majority of the people currently detained on Nauru and Manus, though the generous offer of the New Zealand government to accept some refugees should not be ignored. We have surely done enough damage to these people in the name of border protection. We cannot go on like this, and we look to the Labor Opposition to help to bring about an end to this cruelty which is being inflicted on innocent people in our name.
On behalf of Rural Australians for Refugees, I look forward to your response.

                                                                                                            Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                            Mike Griffin

Copy to Tanya Plibersek MP

letter to Senator Di Natale concerning petition signed by 1396 people, asking Greens' to bring attention to plight of asylum seekers - 10 October 2016

 10th October 2016

Dear Senator Di Natale,

Please find attached a letter to the Prime Minister which sets out the deep concerns shared by many Australians about our nation's cruel, inhumane and extremely expensive offshore detention policy. As you will note, the letter was accompanied by a petition signed by 1396 people.
We are familiar with the Greens' policy on asylum seekers, and we are pleased that we have one party in the Parliament which speaks up for a humane and just solution to the current cruel and morally reprehensible policy.
We would be grateful if you and your parliamentary colleagues could use the details of our petition in any way that you can to bring the plight of our asylum seekers and refugees to the attention of the Parliament and to the wider public.
                                                                                                            Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                            Mike Griffin
                                                            On behalf of Rural Australians for Refugees.