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letter to Prime Minister signed by 1835 people

18th December 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

Please find enclosed an open letter to you, which has been signed by 1,835 people. The signatures have been collected by supporters of Rural Australians for Refugees in many communities across Australia. The letter reads:
“We, the undersigned, are well aware that the international community faces serious challenges in dealing with the millions of people around the world who have been forced to flee their country.
Detaining people indefinitely on remote islands, away from public scrutiny, however, can never be a part of the solution. More than 100 children remain on Nauru. Many of them have only known a life in detention. A large number of them have significant mental health issues. Current government policy is deliberately cruel, utterly inhumane, morally indefensible, and unsustainable. We have a humanitarian catastrophe on our hands which has been deliberately created to achieve political objectives.
We therefore call on your government to immediately evacuate all the children, men and women currently held on Nauru. They must be brought to Australia to receive appropriate care and resettlement here or eventually in other safe countries prepared to accept them. Enough is enough.”
We acknowledge that, since the launch of this open letter, the number of children on Nauru has been dramatically reduced, but we note, with dismay, that your government has spent some $480,000 in the courts during this financial year in a cruel attempt to prevent children coming to our shores for emergency medical treatment. That is truly reprehensible, and cannot possibly be justified. We can protect our borders without treating asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus with such cruelty and inhumanity.
It is surely time to bring this shameful chapter in our history to an end.

                                                                        Yours sincerely,

                                                                        Mike Griffin
                                    On behalf of Rural Australians for Refugees


Newsletter for 18 December 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Roadside demonstration report
Labor Party Conference
Malala Yousafzai on our asylum policy
Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR: 2018

Roadside demonstration report
It was a very windy but dry day for our final roadside demonstration of 2018 in Coffs Harbour last Thursday. A great team of supporters turned out to remind people that our campaign to end offshore detention continues, and will not let up until all the refugees and asylum seekers are evacuated from Nauru and Manus. We had a great response from passing motorists at this very busy spot. Our first demonstration of 2019 will be on Thursday 10th January on Waterfall Way in Bellingen from 2.30 until 4.00 pm. Please come and join us if you can.

Labor Party Conference
At the time of writing, the ALP conference is about to debate the policy on asylum seekers which the party will take to the Federal election in 2019. The indications are that the party will continue the bipartisan approach to indefinite offshore detention, boat turnbacks and refusal to resettle in Australia any of the remaining 1200 people languishing on Nauru and Manus. This, in spite of the huge campaign, supported by millions of Australians, to end offshore detention and to resettle these refugees in Australia, New Zealand and in other safe countries willing to accept them. If this prediction proves to be correct, then we will need to redouble our efforts to convince the major parties that it is not necessary to punish people indefinitely on remote islands in order to keep our borders safe.

Malala Yousafzai on our asylum policy
Malala Yousafzai, the young Nobel Peace laureate, who is visiting Australia at the moment, compared the welcome that she and her family had received in various towns in Pakistan when they were forced to flee from the Taliban, with the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. She explained: “Australia is a warm and welcoming country. And when you look at the immigration policies, they do not actually represent the people of Australia. Refugees want safety, they want homes, they want somebody to give them protection, and then suddenly you welcome them with hatred. You do not even allow them to land or set their feet in Australia...I hope that the people of Australia do stand up for refugees and show their true human side.” Malala reminded us that Pakistan had taken in millions of refugees from Afghanistan during the past four decades, simply because “we have always had this idea that hospitality is part of our culture, and if somebody has lost their home, no matter where they are coming from and what was the reason…your job as a human being is to welcome them, and to support them, and to open your homes and your hearts as well.”
We have a lot to learn.

Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR: 2018
This year has been an incredibly busy and productive time for our group. We have gone from strength to strength, increasing the number of supporters from 500 to 650, which is indicative of the strong public feeling that the cruelty and inhumanity of offshore detention should be brought to an end. We have organized four open letters and petitions during 2018, targeting both Coalition and Labor politicians. Just yesterday, we posted an open letter to the Prime Minister which had been signed by 1,835 people. At the sixteen markets that we have attended during the year, we have handed out thousands of leaflets, had many hundreds of conversations with market-goers and sold lots of merchandise to raise funds for the Asylum Seekers Centre. Our fundraising efforts for the ASC have included a film night, a music concert, lunches and auctions. In total, we have been able to donate $7,500 to the ASC this year, which is an amazing result. Our campaigning included a very successful and well-attended demonstration in Coffs Harbour to mark the five years since the Rudd government declared that no refugees or asylum seekers held on Nauru and Manus would ever be resettled in Australia. And, of course, we have held some 25 roadside demonstrations in Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Toormina which have been very important in raising public awareness about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers languishing in offshore detention. Add to that the hundreds of phone calls and letters to politicians, and letters to the local press, and you get a clear picture of the commitment of members of our group to raising awareness about the government’s cruel and inhumane asylum policy, and to demanding that both the government and the Labor opposition change their policies.
We hope too, that our weekly newsletter has been helpful to you in keeping you up to date with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, both offshore and in Australia.
None of the above could have happened without the dedicated support of all those who have turned up to help at the markets, held banners at the roadside, attended our fundraisers, donated items for the two auctions that we have held, made phone calls, written letters and much besides. A huge thank for all your support.
We will now take a short break for the Christmas period. The next newsletter will appear in your inboxes on Tuesday 8thJanuary 2019. We hope that you enjoy some peace and rest with friends and families in the weeks ahead. We’ll return in the New Year to continue the fight up to and beyond the Federal election.

Check out the index of subjects on our blog
It includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers.
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Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam
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Letter to Coffs Coast Advocate - No Merry Christmas on Nauru and Manus Island

No Merry Christmas on Nauru or Manus Island
Spare a thought this Christmas for the more than 1200 people who are about to spend their 6th Christmas detained indefinitely on Nauru or Manus Island. Some have been separated from their families living in Australia all this time.
These people have committed no offence. They have simply exercised their legal right to seek asylum in Australia in order to escape war, persecution or torture in their home countries.
Surely we can stop pretending to use these detainees as pawns to supposedly deter people smugglers. Both the Government and Opposition have authorised the Australian Navy to turn back any boats that attempt to bring asylum seekers to Australia.
After more than 5 years incarcerated in cruel and inhumane conditions in these detention centres these people are bereft of hope.
There have now been 7 deaths on Manus and 5 on Nauru. Many more have tried to kill themselves. In recent months on Manus one man tried to hang himself, another tried to set himself on fire, and a third swallowed razor blades and nail clippers. Yet the Australian Government has cut mental health support in half and ended torture and trauma counselling.
It is clear that the situation is at crisis point. This cruelty must stop.
We must demand that the Government end offshore detention immediately and bring these long-suffering people to Australia or another safe third country.

Paul Bartholomew
Boambee East


letter recommending book by Manus Island detainee

In the SMH Spectrum published December 8-9 a group of Australian writers told us about the books they loved in 2018. Five of these writers recommended a book that I have just finished reading. It is called  “No Friend but the Mountain” by journalist and Manus Island detainee, Behrouz Boochani. Eminent writer Michelle de Kretser wrote…”Boochani bears lucid, poetic and devastating witness to the insane barbarity enacted in our name”.
I also recommend this book. We bought our copy at a Coffs Harbour bookshop.

Georgina Spinaze


Newsletter for 11 December 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Roadside demonstration: Thursday 13th December, Coffs Harbour
Marble tombstones at ALP conference
Class action on behalf of offshore detainees
Tweets of the week

Roadside demonstration: Thursday 13th December, Coffs Harbour
A reminder that our final roadside demonstration of 2018 is on Thursday from 2.30 to 4.00 pm by the Pacific Highway in Coffs Harbour, opposite the Base hospital. The need to end offshore detention becomes ever more urgent as men on Manus island continue to self-harm in ever-increasing numbers, and as our government continues to block moves for the medical transfer of sick refugees and asylum seekers from both offshore detention centres. Please come and join us if you can to help us send a loud and clear message to the government that this cruelty must be brought to an end. We have lots of placards and banners to share, and we hope that many of you will consider joining us on Thursday.
Our first roadside demonstration of 2019 will take place on Thursday 10th January on Waterfall Way in Bellingen.

Marble tombstones at ALP conference
The Labor party will be holding its national conference in Adelaide at the weekend. You will recall that we collected more than 2,000 signatures on an open letter to Wayne Swan, the party’s president, earlier in the year. We urged the Labor party, at its national conference, to commit to ending offshore detention and to resettling the refugees currently held on Manus and Nauru in Australia or in other safe countries willing to accept them. In addition to the open letter, we also posted ninety letters to Labor parliamentarians, asking them to give their support to proposals from Labor party branches to put an end to this cruel policy.
When delegates arrive in Adelaide at the weekend, they will be confronted in the conference centre with a series of large marble tombstone-like plaques bearing the names of the twelve men who have died as a result of the policy that the party supports. The plaques are the work of Alex Seton, and they are part of the “All we Can’t See” exhibition, which is devoted to showing the horror of offshore detention. As the curator of the exhibition, Arielle Gamble notes: “Each of these men died because of us, and they didn’t have to.”
Let us hope that the Labor party finally listens to the millions of Australian and the countless organisations who are demanding an end to this shameful chapter in our history.

Class action on behalf of offshore detainees
This week the National Justice Project, a not-for-profit organization, is mounting two class actions against the government on behalf of all the detainees on Nauru and Manus. They will claim in court that the government’s treatment of refugees meets the international definition of torture. They will assert that government policy amounts to the intentional infliction of harm, that it is causing serious mental suffering and pain, and that the government is deliberately harming people in order to deter others who might seek safety on our shores. As George Newhouse, a lawyer with the National Justice Project explained in a radio interview, the cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees is a matter of record, and this cruelty is deliberately inflicted in order to achieve political objectives. He reported that during the past week there have been no fewer than 29 serious incidents of self-harm on Manus. The medical facilities on the island are woefully inadequate, and it is clear that the situation is at crisis point.
It is important that these serious issues are aired in court, and that our government is held to account for its cruel and inhumane policies.

Tweets of the week
“So, @ScottMorrisonMP would rather cease to govern than provide medical attention to sick children. There you have it, total moral bankruptcy.”
Father Rob Bower, Gosford Anglican Church
“Let’s get one thing straight. Australia’s offshore detention policy has never been about preventing drownings. It has always been about preventing genuine refugees from getting access to Australian courts. Trust me.”
Paul Barrett – who served as the Secretary of the Department of Defence under the Howard government.

Check out the index of subjects on our blog 
It includes articles from many sources and letters to politicians and newspapers.
This newsletter is sent to >620 recipients
Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

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