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Report on meeting of RAR Bellingen and Districts group 20 November 2016

Report on our meeting of Sunday 20th November 2016

A great turnout  of 24 people for our meeting at the home of Mike and Marlene in Valla Beach on 20th November. The purpose of the gathering was to review our work to date, to discuss future actions, and to enjoy one another's company over lunch.

Review of our activities in 2016
We have had a very busy and productive year, thanks to the efforts of a committed core group of people who have regularly offered their time and energy to our programme of activities, which have included:
·      attendance at 16 markets to promote the case for the humane and lawful treatment of asylum seekers, and for the closure of offshore detention centres.
r     regular, fortnightly roadside demonstrations to keep the asylum seeker issues in the public eye.
·      letters to the press and to politicians.
·      numerous petitions throughout the year, aimed at keeping up the pressure on our politicians.
·      fundraising activities, which have enabled us to support several refugee charities and advocacy groups.
·      a Facebook page which is updated almost daily.
·      our blog, which contains a huge amount of information, including the many letters sent to the press and to parliamentarians.
·      a weekly newsletter, which is circulated to some 450 supporters.
 So far this year, we have donated  $2,870 to the ChilOut charity, $2,000 to the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, and $450 to the Asylum Seeker Centre. This has been possible as a result of our highly successful Simon Tedeschi concert, which raised more than $4,800, and through the profits from our market sales. We currently have $1,190 in our BCU account.

Home among the Gumtrees
Margaret updated the meeting on progress with the Home Among the Gumtrees initiative. We have a number of people who have offered to support the project, and there will be a further update shortly. The organisers in Sydney are planning to become an incorporated group and are hoping that some of our supporters will take up membership.

Where do we go from here?
A number of issues and conclusions emerged:
·      it was agreed that we need to keep up the pressure and be ready to react and adapt our strategy as government policy shifts.
·      agreed that we need to emphasise our responsibility as a nation to "bring them here".
·      We should support any initiatives to increase our humanitarian intake.
·      We should consider developing more regular press releases, with photos, in addition to letters to the press. This should include reminding people, including local editors, that we are a local group of 450 members.
·      We should seek to derive maximum publicity from the petition to Luke Hartsuyker. We should also seek the views of other political parties/candidates about the issues raised in the petition.
·      We should try to work on changing perceptions in the Labor party about its national policy in relation to refugees.
·      We need to design a new bumper sticker, and then distribute our remaining ones without charge for people to use.
·      Can we promote forums/ films which highlight refugee issues?
·      The idea of a tent installation was also floated, as was the possibility of a mass demonstration in Canberra.
It was acknowledged that new initiatives need to be owned and embraced by individuals or a small group if they are to get off the ground.
The meeting was followed by a most enjoyable lunch and social.

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