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Newsletter for 24 April 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nam,bucca Districts

Next Roadside Demo - Bellingen, May 3rd 2:30pm
Next market stall - Bellingen Sat 19th May

I want a compassionate country
Update from Asylum Seekers Centre
Open letter to Bill Shorten

Roadside demonstration report
Another successful  demo  outside the Big Banana last Thursday, with lots of positive responses from passing motorists. In the face of  the constant negative portrayal of refugees and asylum seekers by politicians and their friends in the media, it is so important that we continue to remind people that their is a better way, and that decency and humanity  should prevail over cruelty and political calculation.
Our next roadside demonstration will be on Thursday 3rd May from 2.30 to 4.00 pm in Bellingen. You will find us on Waterfall Way, opposite the entrance to the golf clubadjacent to the Yellow Shed. Several of our usual supporters will be overseas on that date, so this is a heartfelt plea to all of you out there to consider joining us for an hour or so on 3rd May. Please put the date in your diary and join us if you can.

Coffs Harbourside market report
In spite of the grey skies and the rumbling thunder in the distance early on Sunday morning, the sun eventually appeared  and people arrived in considerable numbers.  We had a successful and busy time engaging with market-goers, collecting signatures on our new open letter and selling quite a lot of merchandise. It would be great if a few more supporters from the local area would consider coming along to help for an hour or two when we have our next stall in Coffs Harbour.
Our next market stall will be at the Bellingen market on Saturday 19th May from 9.00 am until 1.30 pm.

I want a compassionate country
At the recent RAR national conference, we had the privilege of listening to a truly passionate song written  and sung by Linda Simpson, with an accompanying film, produced by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group. Linda writes : " I would be honoured if you would listen to it and, if you think it appropriate, to share it by any means possible. It is a message of hope and gratitude to those who stand up for others being mistreated and also will hopefully open some hearts and minds of people who really don’t understand the situation.”
Here is the link:

Turn up the volume and watch it on full screen. You will be moved by it!
All the papers from the national conference can now be found on our blog under the “National RAR” tab.

Update from the Asylum Seekers Centre
In recent days we have posted an update on our Facebook page from the Asylum Seekers Centre about the Status Resolution Support Service, which we have written about in recent weeks. Some of the Department of Home Affairs changes to the SRSS have already affected some asylum seekers, and from 4th June single men and women who are assessed as being able to work will have ten days to find a job before all income support is stopped. By August, family groups will also be affected, leaving up to 7,500 people without any support.
Organisations like ASC will be hard pressed to support these asylum seekers. The ASC update states: “The new DHA policy is cruel, unjust, and designed to cause hardship and destitution. It is just wrong. This rips at the fabric of fairness held dear by Australians. After years of working with people seeking asylum we know that their most important goal on arrival is to secure employment. For most, that takes time. Without the time and support that people need, the new policy means many will slip into destitution.”
The ASC urges us to contact politicians to urge them stop these cuts and to give asylum seekers the support that they need to prepare for employment.
You may recall that we sent $900 to ASC some weeks ago, following the screening of Hope Road in Bellingen. This week we have sent a further $100 to them from donations and profits at our market stall. If any of you have any creative ideas about future fundraising, then please drop us a line at :

Open Letter to Bill Shorten
Last week we sent off a letter to Bill Shorten, accompanied by 1065 signatures collected by supporters at our market stall and by several other RAR groups around Australia. Many other RAR groups are using the open letter that we produced,  and will be sending them independently to Bill Shorten, which means that in the coming weeks, he will receive several thousand signatures from people, urging the Labor Party to change its current policy and to adopt a humane approach to the treatment of asylum seekers, including a commitment to closing offshore detention centres and to bringing people to Australia for processing and resettlement. In addition to the letter to Bill Shorten, we also posted 45 letters to Federal Labor MPs and Senators on the Left of the party, explaining the details of our actions and urging them to press for a change of party policy. Our newly-acquired photocopier has been kept busy! You can read the correspondence on our blog.
We now have a new open letter, which you will find attached to this newsletter, and which has been circulated by our national RAR committee to all other RAR groups. Our intention is to attempt to influence the Labor Party conference, which takes place in Adelaide at the end of July. Asylum policy will be on the agenda, and there are some in the Party who are seeking a departure from the current bipartisan policy which Labor took to the last election. Please consider printing the open letter and collecting signatures from family, friends and colleagues. Every signature counts!

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Letter posted to 45 left leaningl Labor MPs and Senators re open letter to Bill Shorten 18 April 2018

18th April 2018


Please find attached a copy of the open letter  which I sent to Bill Shorten earlier this week, together with a copy of the covering letter, also addressed to Bill Shorten.
Rural Australians for Refugee groups around Australia have long recognised that the present government has no intention of relaxing its increasingly hardline and coercive stance on refugees and asylum seekers. We therefore have to look to those in the Labor party who might offer a glimmer of hope for the many thousands of asylum seekers and refugees who are currently living in fear and uncertainty in our communities or who remain indefinitely stranded and almost forgotten on Nauru and Manus.
The present policy is utterly cruel, inhumane, of doubtful legality and enormously expensive. Your support in working for  significant changes to Labor's current policy would be widely welcomed. It is time to be courageous, to confront the political risks, and to make a principled and humane stand on behalf of our asylum seekers and refugees. We have surely punished them enough!
                                                                                                                                                Yours sincerely,

                                                                                                                                                 Mike Griffin
                                                        Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR

Open Letter posted to Bill Shorten 17 April 2018

17th April 2018
Dear Mr Shorten,
Please find enclosed an open letter, addressed to you, which has been signed by 1065 members of the public. Each of these 1065 signatures represents a conversation with everyday Australians of all ages and backgrounds who are deeply disappointed with the Labor Party's ongoing support for the key elements of the Coalition's punitive, coercive and inhumane asylum policy. Too many people are telling us that they feel ashamed to be Australian. It is surely time to put this shameful chapter in our history behind us. It is surely time, after inflicting so much harm on so many people, to finally put principle and humanity above political calculation.
We therefore urge you, and your party, in advance of the next election, to grasp the nettle and to firmly and publicly commit to the actions set out in our letter. By doing so, you will be taking a very positive step towards restoring the public's faith in politics and politicians.

                                                                        Yours sincerely,

                                                                        Mike Griffin
                                 Bellingen and Nambucca District Rural Australians for Refugees