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Letter to Editor published in Bellingen Courier Sun - Lets stop the Hate Speech

Let’s Stop the Hate Speech

published in Bellingen Courier Sun 27 March 2019

I was born in Australia over 70 years ago. All of my life I have had to listen to so-called White Australians publicly denigrating people of all minority groups such as Muslims, Asians, Aboriginal people and gay people.

When the use of this hate speech is so prevalent is it any wonder that this culminates in the appalling tragedy in Christchurch.

Especially when this racist, bigoted and xenophobic language is fully embraced for purely political purposes by some of our leading politicians. When, for example, the Minister for Immigration hysterically and erroneously states that a small number of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru coming to our shores for urgent medical treatment will take our jobs, kick patients off hospital waiting lists and evict people out of their social housing. This is base politics at its lowest and most dangerous level.
In the absence of any leadership from our politicians, we all, as citizens of this great country, need to take personal responsibility to avoid using racist and bigoted language and to condemn and call out all who resort to this hate speech.

Paul Bartholomew

Boambee East


Letter to Editor The Christchurch tragedy - published in Bellingen Courier Sun

Dear editor,
The Christchurch tragedy
We have all been deeply saddened and outraged by the  recent terrible events in Christchurch. We ask ourselves: How could it possibly be that in the 21st Century, 50 innocent worshippers could be gunned down in cold blood by a young, white, male political extremist? How did we get to this? The appalling truth is that events like this, particularly in the USA, have become all too frequent in recent years. 
The Christchurch victims came from all walks of life, and from all corners of the globe. Some of them had traveled from overseas to visit family members. A number of them were refugees: Syrians, Palestinians, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Iraqis and others from war-torn parts of the world. 

They had found refuge in a welcoming country, a country where they finally felt safe, where they at last could begin to rebuild their shattered lives and to contribute to their communities.

Without doubt, when seeking an explanation for such atrocities, we can point to the internet as a terrible and rich resource for those who want to share their white supremacist hatred. But that is only a part of it. We surely need to have a cold, hard look at how some of our politicians, shock jocks, and media commentators have been fueling the fires of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment over many years in Australia.

When will we acknowledge, and then attempt to deal with, the fact that, as a society, we seem to have normalized the politics of fear and intolerance?

When will we recognize that the unspeakable seems to be the new normal, that it’s OK, according to the nation’s ex-Attorney General, George Brandis, to be a bigot? 
When will we, as a nation, collectively reject the demonizing of those arriving on our shores by boat, or looking too dark-skinned, or appearing too religious?

When will we unequivocally condemn the dog-whistling, which in recent times has become a foghorn, of leading politicians who warn darkly of “single males”, “rapists” and “paedophiles” who might find their way to our shores? People who, according to the same Minister, will take our jobs, live off the dole, kick patients off waiting lists, and kick people out of their social housing. The same Minister who is then outraged when it is put to him that this kind of talk fuels the flames of anti-Muslim and racist sentiment.

When will we finally call time on the highly-paid shock jocks and other media commentators who, on a daily basis, single out Muslims as being “unaustralian”, unwilling to integrate or to contribute to Australian society?

When will we finally and collectively assert that it’s not OK for the Murdoch press to produce 2,891 anti-Islamic stories in a single year?

When will we finally, and unequivocally, condemn those politicians who thrive on the politics of fear, and who readily play the race card for purely political motives? It is surely not OK for a Senator to turn up to parliament wearing a burka to promote herself and her anti-Muslim beliefs. 

It is surely not OK for another senator to travel the length and breadth of the country to attend far-right meetings, at taxpayers’ expense, and to blame all Muslims for the appalling tragedy in Christchurch. Surely, these people should have no place in our parliament.

As Craig Foster, ex-Socceroo, tweeted last week: “Australia is waking up today to a recognition that we have allowed Muslim Australia, our own brothers and sisters, to be demonized and marginalized. My thanks to all those who are demanding a new national conversation about Muslim Australia, refugees, multiculturalism and racism. God knows, we need it.”

Mike Griffin
Valla Beach NSW 2448


Newsletter for 26 March 2019 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Roadside demonstration report
Fundraising lunch and auction: Saturday 30th March
Next market stall: Valla Beach market, Saturday 6th April
Sanctuary Australia Foundation are looking for local volunteers
Harmony festival. Coffs Harbour: Sunday 31st March
Time to end the fear-mongering and vilification of refugees
Quote of the week

Roadside demonstration report
A good turnout of enthusiastic volunteers for last week’s demonstration in Bellingen, with terrific support from passing motorists. We believe that it’s hugely important to keep reminding people that the issue of offshore detention will not go away until our politicians finally agree that this is a humanitarian catastrophe of their making, and for which they will be held accountable at some point. There are still approximately 1,000 people languishing on Manus and Nauru, most of them for up to six years. 
Please note that, for unavoidable reasons, there will not be a roadside demonstration on 4th April. Our next demonstration will be on Thursday 18th April on the Pacific Highway in Coffs Harbour, opposite the Base hospital from 2.30 to 4.00 pm.
Fundraising lunch and auction: Saturday 30th March
We still have a few places remaining for Saturday’s fundraising auction, which will start at 2.00 pm following the lunch, which is fully booked. If you would like to attend the auction at 12, River Street, Mylestom, then please get in touch with Margie and Georgie urgently to let them know. Time is running out! You can email them at: or phone them on: 6655 4613. We’ll ask you to contribute $5 on arrival, and we’ll offer you a complimentary drink.
Items for the auction continue to roll in. Recent offerings include: A Sri Lankan love cake home-baked by Nik; a 20-minute shiatsu massage with Paul Campbell; a voucher from In-Tune Woodwind Repairs to the value of $150 for servicing a small woodwind instrument.
If you have an item for the auction, then please also let Margie and Georgie know immediately, as we need to print all the details by Friday at the latest.
It will be lots of fun, and we hope to raise at least $2,000 for the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown.
Next market stall: Valla Beach market, Saturday 6th April
A reminder that our next market stall will be at the Valla Beach market on Saturday 6th April. We have several people to help with the early morning setup, but we are still looking for support between 9.00 am and 1.00 pm. If you can help out for an hour or two, then please let Mike know by emailing him at:

Sanctuary Australia Foundation are looking for local volunteers
Sanctuary Australia Foundation [the national Refugee support foundation founded in Coffs Harbour] are starting a Home Reading Group with the Narranga Public School's primary age children of Yazidi families. As you would know, these are families that have been relocated from ISIS controlled Iraq and Syria.

We require volunteers to help with literacy one hour per week, in Coffs Harbour, after school hours, with a partner volunteer. Training is being given, you will need a Working with Children Check [free for volunteers] and a NSW Police Check [$30 at the Post Office and Sanctuary can refund this amount].

The wonderful families of these gorgeous children are very forward looking and doing a great job trying to help their children integrate and settle in our community. Pilot program starts beginning of Term 2, training 19th March. Additional volunteers will be trained in May to further the number of children and families being supported.

If you have the time and can commit to this important and rewarding program, please contact Fiona McAulay [Bellingen Co-Ordinator] or Mark Hallam at Sanctuary in Coffs Harbour.  Details below:
Mark:    mobile 0490 299 879
Fiona:                       mobile 0429 033814

Harmony festival. Coffs Harbour: Sunday 31st March
A reminder that the annual Harmony Festival will take place in the Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens on Sunday 31st March from 9.00 am to 2.30 pm. The festival is a wonderful and colourful celebration of multicultural Coffs Harbour. You will enjoy singing and dancing, beautiful costumes, and enticing food from around the world. From past experience, it will be a truly joyful experience not to be missed. Please put the date in your diary so that you can look forward to enjoying the occasion.

Time to end the fear-mongering and vilification of refugees
Following the Christchurch tragedy, a section of our political leaders, who for many years have, for purely political purposes, sought to demean and vilify asylum seekers and refugees, have finally fallen silent. We need to keep it that way, by calling out those politicians, and their friends in the media, who seek to create fear and disharmony in our communities by playing the race card, creating division in our society, and emboldening the far-right white supremacists in our midst to ratchet up their campaigns of race hate. There should be no place in our society for this ugly behaviour and we should do all we can to counteract it. 

To that end, we are mounting a petition which calls on advertisers on the Alan Jones Breakfast Show to withdraw their advertising from his programme, which all too often offers a platform to the likes of Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison, Minister Dutton and others to promote their anti-refugee rhetoric. Please go to our Facebook page, sign the petition. and share it as widely as you can. Let’s make our voices heard!
Direct link to the petition:

Link to the Bellingen and Nambucca RAR facebook group:

Quote of the week
When you look at Jacinda and Scott, the contrast is so stark: between one who seeks to unite us and to find a place where we come together in a sense of love, compassion and inclusion, and one who has sought to do the opposite, and spread fear, disunity and paranoia.”

Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of Australia’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

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