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Newsletter for 27 February 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Next Roadside Demo - Bellingen March 8th 2:30pm
Fundraising film screening this coming Sunday, March 4th
Freedom Stories - DVD available for loan
Harmony Festival - Coffs Sunday 25th March
Conditions on Nauru exposed

Roadside demonstration report

A big thank you to the group of supporters who turned up for last week’s  roadside demonstration in front of the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. As always, we had lots of support from passing motorists, together with the usual small minority of dissenters. We feel that it’s really important to keep the issue of the cruelty of our government’s  asylum policy in the public eye. It’s clear that the Coalition and the Labor opposition will maintain  the current regime of indefinite offshore detention unless we, the Australian voters, convince them that the tide has turned, and that this cruel and inhumane policy is no longer a vote winner.
Our next roadside demo will be on Waterfall Way in Bellingen, near the Yellow Shed, on Thursday 8th March from 2.30 to 4.00 pm. It would be great if a few more supporters could join us.

Fundraising screening of Hope Road: Sunday 4th March at 2.00 pm

A final reminder that our fundraiser for the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown is this coming Sunday at the Memorial Hall in Bellingen, starting at 2.00 pm. You will find a flyer about the screening attached to this newsletter and we would greatly appreciate it if you could print a few copies and share them with your friends or work colleagues. It’s an inspiring film which you will enjoy, so please come and join us if you can. We’ll have a stall in the foyer where you can buy our asylum seeker merchandise. The ASC, like other NGOs working with refugees and asylum seekers, is desperately in need of funds to enable them to continue with their important work, so we are very much hoping for a good turn out.

Freedom Stories : a great DVD available on loan

You may remember that we advertised this DVD, available on loan to RAR supporters, a couple of weeks ago. Freedom Stories is a documentary-based project that brings together a collection of personal stories from former asylum seekers who sought asylum in Australia at a time of great political turmoil circa 2001, but who have long since dropped out of the media spotlight. The people who participated in the project are all now Australian citizens. Given the ongoing controversies over  “boat people” it is timely that their stories be heard. To borrow the DVD, contact Mike at: The DVD is licenced for public viewing, so in addition to viewing it at home, you might like to consider organising a viewing for a local group, which could have a big impact for our cause.
Margaret Henley, who has recently watched the film, writes:
 I experienced a mixture of emotions as I watched this documentary:  elation at seeing these former refugees as productive Australian citizens, sadness at hearing of the traumas they suffered and anger at the heartlessness of the Australian government’s treatment of these asylum seekers.
 I admired Aoham, a teacher from Iraq who struggled with the difficulties of finding a teaching job at a school other than an Islamic one. Reyhana, after suffering depression for three years after leaving detention, now works at the Migrant Resource Centre in SA. She no longer wears a veil and emphasised that she now has the freedom to make that choice.
 What impressed me about the men who were interviewed was their determination to establish their own businesses, from tiling to painting to forming a company, which organises work for sub-contractors. They did not avoid talking about the pain of being separated from family, the depression many of them still suffer from and the memories of self-harm they witnessed in the detention camps.
 One of the more unexpected stories in the documentary showed Sherie, mother of three sons, one of whom has cerebral palsy. She was taking driving lessons in a truck, almost ready for her Heavy Rigid licence but aiming for the licence that will enable her to drive B-doubles. “I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver” she said.

Harmony Festival 2018: Coffs Harbour, Sunday 25th March

This year’s Harmony Festival will take place on Sunday 25th March from 9.30 am until 2.30 pm in the Botanic Gardens, Coffs Harbour.  The festival will be a wonderful celebration of everyone’s journey to calling Coffs Harbour home. Come along and enjoy an uplifting day of cultural performances and vibrant world music. If previous festivals are anything to go by, you will find the event full of life, colour, happiness and amazing aromas from around the world.
Entry is by gold coin donation and all are welcome. It will be a great family day out.
If you would like to volunteer on the day, than please phone Jane on: 6648 4850.

Appalling conditions on Nauru exposed

It seems almost unimaginable that refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, including children, are still living in mouldy tents, with no air-conditioning, on this tropical island. About 20 fly-in-fly-out  former Nauru immigration detention centre workers have become seriously ill as a result of of exposure to mould, and the microbiologist contracted to assess the problem,  Dr Cameron Jones, says that the contamination was “of epic proportions”. At least three confidential documents have been prepared for government over four years, detailing that “highly toxic” mould was an overwhelming problem across the centre, and posed a “major risk to the health and safety of the occupants”. Notwithstanding the evidence to the contrary, the government insists that “there have been no cases of anyone developing health issues following exposure to mould at the Nauru RPC”.
How can we continue to expose these asylum seekers and refugees to such appalling danger? Yet another reason to close these hell holes and bring these innocent people to Australia for resettlement.

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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National RAR Press Release 20 February 2018 Border Force refusal of medical attention

The spiteful decision by Australian Border Force to refuse a critically depressed son to accompany his mother to Australia for medical attention appals  all fair minded Australians said Marie Sellstrom President of Rural Australians for Refugees.  While politicians are arguing about their sex lives in Canberra refugees with life threatening conditions are suffering on Nauru and Manus.
Fatemeh an Iranian woman on Nauru has serious health problems including diabetes, imminent risk of heart attack and severe depression she is unable to come to Australia for urgent medical attention as she will not leave without her 16 year old son.
Her son has severe depression and is at risk of suicide.  His mother does not want to leave him alone on Nauru.
“The refusal by Australian Border Force to allow her son to accompany her is inhumane” said Marie Sellstrom National President of Rural Australians for Refugees “Australia has a duty of care for refugees they have sent to Nauru and Manus and we are disgusted at this decision to disregard the health of a mother and son who are both at risk”.

newsletter for 20 Feb 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Next Market - Bellingen Sat 17th March
U3A session on refugee issues
Next Roadside Demo - Big Banana Coffs February 22nd 2:30pm
Behrouz Boochani reports from Manus
Seriously ill mother still trapped on Nauru

Coffs Harbourside market report

A great turnout of ten supporters  to help on our stall in Coffs Harbour on Sunday. The new venue , apart from the lack of shade until the newly planted trees grow, is very pleasant and well set out.  There was lots of positive interaction with visitors to our stall, as well as lively conversations  amongst our supporters. As always, a very good response from members of the public, together with deep dismay about the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by our government.
Our next market stall will be at the Bellingen Community markets on Saturday 17th March.

U3A session on refugee issues

Some 25 people attended the U3A meeting on the subject of refugees on Monday 19th February in Nambucca Heads. In the first part of the meeting, Michael Blockey gave us a very comprehensive overview of the development of asylum policy by governments on both sides of politics, and mapped out the shift from the bipartisan policy of welcoming refugees to one of demonising them for party political advantage. The result has been the “race to the bottom” in which politicians use the tactics of fear and nationalism to turn the Australian public away from the tradition of wanting to give people a helping hand and to offer them the opportunity to build a new life in a safe country. In the second part of the session, Vigeeta Chauhan, who works for Settlement Services International in Coffs Harbour, gave us a detailed picture of how SSI works with newly arrived refugees to assist them in navigating  the complexities of moving to a new country, learning  a new language and adjusting to a completely new existence. SSI supports the refugees with housing, education, health issues, shopping, finding employment and much besides. It is a vital service, without which many refugees would simply find it impossible to adapt to their new lives. You can find further information at:

Next roadside demonstration: Thursday 22nd February in Coffs Harbour

Our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday 22nd February outside the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour from 2.30 until 4.00 pm. Please do try to join us if you can, but remember to wear covered shoes to keep the ants at bay! We have lots of banners and placards to share and we need to continue to demonstrate to the public that many Australians are deeply appalled by the government’s cruel and punitive policy, which is designed to break people’s spirits and to encourage them to return to the danger that they have risked their lives to escape from.

Behrouz Boochani reports from Manus

On the fourth anniversary of the brutal murder of Reza Barati  at the hands of those paid by the Australian government to protect him, Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee held on Manus island, writes passionately about Reza’s murder, and about the plight of the men still languishing there, many of them since 2013. Behrouz writes: “His death is an utter tragedy. The way he was killed, and the violence that left him dead, more than anything else, echoes the level of ruthlessness inherent in the system of offshore processing. Four years have passed since that event and questions are still left unanswered. Why didn’t the police force try to stop the attack by the locals and G4S officers on that night? Why weren’t those two Australians ( G4S guards implicated in Raza’s murder) pursued and investigated? And why didn’t they appear in any court? Also, what was the role of G4S guards who had the responsibility to protect the refugees? And why didn’t they carry out their responsibilities appropriately?”
You can read the whole article, together with a very moving poem by Behrouz, on our Facebook page.

Seriously ill mother still trapped on Nauru

The very sick mother who needs urgent heart treatment, remains on Nauru, simply because she insists that she cannot leave her only son on Nauru whilst she undergoes treatment in Australia. The Australian Border Force – not well known for its expertise in diagnosing patients’ needs – has received repeated requests, including two in January, for the mother to be evacuated from the island, but refuses to budge on the need for her to be accompanied by her son. The latest medical report states that : “she is at extremely high and imminent risk of having a catastrophic cardiac event such as heart attack, or sudden death due to arrhythmias.”  A former senior medical officer on Nauru who treated the mother, repeatedly warned the Australian immigration authorities that she needed a higher level of care than can be provided on Nauru. He states: “ For the Australian Border Force to use her son as a way of denying treatment is breathtakingly cynical.”
If you would like to protest about this to the government or the opposition, then please phone Malcolm Turnbull on (02)6277 7700 or Bill Shorten on (02) 6277 4022.

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 >500 recipients


Twitter Account @RARBellingenNam

The National RAR web site is at 
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