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Bello Nambucca RAR Newsletter 3rd December 2019

 Roadside demonstration report
Bush, Beach and Bash report
Valla Beach market stall: Saturday 7th December
Life in Australia for Medevac transferees
Medevac and Senator Lambie

Roadside demonstration report

We had another successful roadside demonstration next to the Big Banana last Thursday, with lots of support from passing motorists. Our seven supporters were joined for a while by two students who had recently graduated from the Coffs Harbour Senior College. Their interest and enthusiasm was truly uplifting!
Our next demonstration, which will be our final one for 2019, will be by the Pacific Highway in Coffs Harbour, opposite the base hospital, on Thursday 12th December from 2.30 to 4.00 pm. We hope that many of you will try to get along to support us in reminding the public about our shameful treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

Bush, Beach and Bash report

There was a great turn out of thirty supporters for our final fundraising event of the year on Sunday. Half of the group enjoyed a stroll around the Jagun nature reserve, led by John and Bronwyn who shared with us their great knowledge of the flora and fauna of the reserve. Somehow, we didn’t make it the beach! Lunch on the deck followed, and it was clear that everyone welcomed the opportunity to eat, drink and enjoy one another’s company until mid-afternoon. We raised an amazing $905 from donations and the raffle of a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Together with the money raised from the recent sale of coins, other donations and sales at our market stall, it looks as if we will far exceed our 2019 fundraising target of $10,000 for the Asylum Seekers Centre. We will let you know the total amount for the year in our final newsletter of 2019 on 17th December.

Valla Beach market stall: Saturday 7th December

Our final market stall for 2019 will be at the popular Valla Beach market on Saturday 7th December from 9.00 am until 1.00 pm. We’ll be collecting signatures on our open letter to the Prime Minister, handing out information leaflets and selling merchandise to raise funds for the Asylum Seekers Centre. Please drop by to sign the letter if you are visiting the market. If you can help out at our stall for an hour or two, then please let Mike know by emailing him at: New volunteers are always very welcome. 

Life in Australia for Medevac transferees

At this critical point in the government’s efforts to repeal the Medevac legislation, it is worth remembering that the Coalition has always been opposed to the transfer of sick refugees to Australia from offshore detention, and has spent large sums of taxpayers’ money attempting to block transfers over a number of years through the courts, but to no avail. The courts have routinely ordered the transfer of sick people, accompanied by family members, on the grounds that their medical needs – most often mental health problems – could not be met offshore. Once the refugees are here, lawyers intervene to prevent their return to the punishing regime from which they have been transferred. Since the start of 2016, only about eight people have been returned to offshore detention, much to Minister Dutton’s chagrin.
But what is life like in Australia for this group of people? The reality is that they live in fear of being returned offshore, they have few rights, and many restrictions on their lives. Most of those transferred remain in community detention and are subject to curfews, restrictions on their movements and the requirement to report weekly to the authorities – much like alleged criminals on bail. It is not surprising that they are often unable to overcome the sense of worthlessness that offshore detention instils. Academic and journalist Saba Vasefi explains: “Poor rehabilitative services and deprivation from civil engagement are two major components which contribute to refugees’ disempowerment.” People’s fear and uncertainty breeds anxiety and prolonged illness. One refugee reported: “Two days ago, my sister called my caseworker and she said: “you might get sent back to Nauru,” and so then again we get depressed.”
Nicolas Procter, professor of mental health nursing at the University of South Australia, has been working with asylum seekers for 25 years and advises governments on health and suicide prevention programmes for refugees. He says: “It takes time for people, particularly who have been in some cases in excruciating distress and despair, to be able to talk about that, to be able to bring about a calmer sense of self in all of that experience. That’s one of the real-world issues that this at-times-fragile and vulnerable group are in need of.” Unsurprisingly, professor Procter says that removing the threat of being returned to Nauru or PNG would help patients’ recovery. He adds: “Many people are dealing with such tremendous amounts of uncertainty that is linked to excruciating states of distress. If you want to rock somebody’s mental health, give them a dose of uncertainty and that will do it.”
There is clearly an urgent need for the government to treat these sick people with humanity and sensitivity, to manage their medical problems appropriately and to reassure them that they will not be returned to the terrible situation on Nauru and in PNG. We need a compassionate, safe, and permanent solution for these people, so that they can finally have some sense of security and, with support, rebuild their shattered lives.

Medevac and Senator Lambie

At the time of writing, we are still in the dark about Senator Lambie’s voting intention in relation to the government’s bid to repeal the Medevac legislation. She has stated that she will back the government provided that it meets her demand for a quid pro quo which she refuses to disclose as it is a “national security issue.” It has been widely speculated that she will back the government provided that it agrees to take up the New Zealand government’s offer to resettle 150 refugees, but this has neither been confirmed nor denied. Senator Lambie has been under huge pressure to do the right thing, namely to refuse to support the repeal of the legislation, from a wide range of organisations and citizens. It seems that only the Coalition, supported loudly by its friends in the Murdoch press, is keen to see the Medevac legislation repealed. Most Australians, according to a recent Guardian poll, back the legislation in its current form, or believe that it should be more compassionate. Only 22% of respondents believe that the current legislation weakens Australia’s borders. But that has not stopped Senator Mathias Cormann from spouting the usual government nonsense, stating on Monday: “Each individual senator has to make a decision: whether they stand on the side of stronger national security or weaker national security.”
It is very likely that the repeal bill will be tabled in the Senate this week. We can only hope, for the sake of the sick refugees, that the government suffers another defeat.

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