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Newsletter: January 2021


Our first market of 2021 went really well. We had a great spot, the sun shone, the crowds turned up, and we had a very busy time interacting with lots of market-goers of all ages and backgrounds. Our open letter to the Prime Minister attracted more than 150 signatures, we sold in excess of $200- worth of merchandise, collected $40 in donations and signed up a number of new supporters.
Our open letter, which runs until 25th April, calls on the government to release all refugees and asylum seekers and to commit to their resettlement in a safe, permanent home by World Refugee Day on 20th July 2021. If you feel that you could collect signatures on the letter from friends, family, work colleagues or your social groups, then please get in touch with Mike at:, and he will send you the signature sheet. (It is also on this blog)

Our next market stall will be at the popular Valla Beach market on Saturday 6th February. If you can help out for an hour or two, then please email Mike to let him know, so that he can draw up a roster.

Last week’s roadside demonstration in Coffs Harbour went very well, with nine supporters holding up banners and placards to remind the public about the ongoing cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by our government. As always, the reaction of passing motorists was overwhelmingly positive.
Our next demonstration will take place on Thursday 4th February from 2.30 to 4.00 pm by the Pacific Highway in Coffs Harbour, opposite the base hospital.

It would be great to welcome some new supporters. These demonstrations are an excellent way to keep the plight of refugees in the public eye.


We are a group of some 650 local citizens who are united in our commitment to achieving a realistic, fair, humane and compassionate national asylum seeker policy. We campaign in various ways, which are mentioned in our fortnightly Bulletins. We really do need more active members to support us.
Would you consider joining us at our local market stalls and roadside demonstrations? Being at the market stall is an encouraging and enlivening experience. We meet people who are willing to support our cause by signing petitions, buying our Boat People merchandise or making a donation. It is also a social time when we enjoy the company of one another and encourage ourselves in our work for refugees. 
Have you ever taken part in a roadside demonstration? It is not as scary as you may think. We have one placard saying “Honk for Refugees” and we receive many encouraging “honks” and/or waves. Any dissenting expressions we meet with a friendly wave. We do not confront. Over the years we have found fewer dissenters and many more expressions of support.
On several occasions a year we organize a fundraiser. We have had concerts and meals followed by an auction of pre-loved goods. If you have an idea for a fundraiser that you would like to suggest please contact us and we will support you in running it.
While our RAR group is very clear in its purpose we are also a very warm and friendly group and we would love you to make 2021 a year when you step outside your comfort level (maybe) and join us. We are stronger together.

I'd love to hear from you

Many of you will be aware that, in recent days, some sixty five refugees have been released from immigration detention in Melbourne, where they have spent a year or more detained in inner-city hotels or the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre. (MITA). They had been transferred to Australia from Nauru and PNG to receive medical attention under the now-repealed medevac legislation. Most of the men released had cases pending in court to protest the illegality of their detention – cases which the government knew that it was likely to lose, hence the belated decision to release the detainees into community detention. Minister Dutton’s explanation for the release of the refugees is that it is cheaper for them to live in the community than in detention - more of that anon.

The release of these refugees is clearly a most welcome development. However, it is important to note that there are still some 150 refugees stuck in hotels and other places of detention in Brisbane and Melbourne as a result of the government’s stubborn refusal to act with some compassion and humanity in its treatment of these medevac refugees. In addition, we need to note that the men released have been issued with temporary “Final Departure” visas, which are valid for just six months. During this time period, the refugees, according to the government, are expected to make arrangements to be resettled in the US, to return to Nauru or PNG, or to return to their home countries. This is hardly conducive to allowing them to recover from their trauma or to feel that they finally have some kind of safe and settled future to look forward to.

Greens Immigration Spokesperson Senator Nick McKim had this to say about the release of the refugees: “There are still 150 people who suffered through years of offshore detention detained in Australia. They should also be immediately released. Those released today, and those still in detention, deserved freedom and safety a long time ago. Now they need permanent protection, support in our community, and a pathway to Australian citizenship. There was never a legitimate reason for their detention, and it’s time to write the end of this dark chapter in our country’s story.”

What can you do?
Please write to Minister Dutton at:

  • Tell him that you are pleased to learn about the release of the medevac refugees from detention in Melbourne.
  • Ask him to release the remaining 150 refugees into community detention immediately.
  • Ask him to ensure that they are given all the medical support that they require to treat their conditions, and the support required to assist them to settle in the community.
  • Ask him to grant the refugees permanent visas, which would allow them to finally feel that their futures are secure. They are our responsibility, and it is not possible for them to return to their home countries.
  •  Point out that, given that he has rightly acknowledged that it is much cheaper for refugees to live in the community, the same criterion should be applied to the Sri Lankan family of four being held on Christmas Island at a cost of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
  •  Likewise, remind him that his government plans to spend more than a billion dollars this year keeping some 270 refugees and asylum seekers out of sight and out of mind on Nauru and in PNG. How can this be justified?
  • Finally, ask him to urgently take up the offer of the New Zealand government to accept 150 of our refugees annually.
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It is now more than seven years since the Rudd Labor government declared that, from 19th July 2013, any asylum seeker arriving in Australia by boat would be detained offshore indefinitely, and would never be permitted to settle in Australia. Since that date, many hundreds of asylum seekers have been detained on the island of Nauru, and many hundreds more in PNG.

Despite government claims to the contrary, it is lawful for people who are fleeing conflict and persecution to seek refuge in a safe country. That right is enshrined in international laws and treaties, to which Australia is a signatory. Under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”


Where are these asylum seekers now?

Some 870 refugees have been resettled in the US. Others, in desperation, have been persuaded to return to danger in their home countries. A small number have been privately sponsored to move to Canada, and a very small number are attempting to resettle on Nauru or in PNG. Others have been brought to Australia for medical treatment, with many of them held in detention centres or in hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne. They are not free, and they are expected by our government to return to Nauru or PNG once they have been treated for their medical conditions. Some 290 people remain in limbo on Nauru and in PNG. They have committed no crime, yet, unlike convicted criminals, there is no end in sight for them. Their punishment is indefinite, and the conditions under which they are held are not safe.


Seven years too long

It has been more than seven years of deliberate abuse, of appalling conditions and of our government abrogating its responsibility to fulfil our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. As Sarah Dale, of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service points out: “This harsh and abhorrent system is designed to punish those who dare to ask for our protection. Lives have been lost, spirits completely broken. The government must act now to provide a permanent settlement solution for people who have already suffered seven years too long. This cannot continue.”

The only reason that these people continue to be held in these completely unacceptable conditions is the lack of political will.


What should the government do?

·      process all outstanding asylum claims without further delays

·      accept the offer of the NZ government to resettle 150 refugees annually

·      evacuate all the remaining asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and PNG to Australia, with a view to resettlement in the US, in NZ, in other safe third countries, or in Australia

·      release all medevac evacuees into the community, and ensure that they get the medical and other support that they need.


What can you do?

·      Write to Federal MP:  or Immigration Minister Alex Hawke:  and demand that they take action to bring this shameful chapter in our history to an end.

·      Sign up to receive our fortnightly news bulletin.


Published by Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR.

Updated 14.1.21


Mission Statement - Rural Australians for Refugees: Bellingen and Nambucca District


Rural Australians for Refugees: Bellingen and Nambucca District

Who are we?

We are a group of some 650 local citizens who are united in our commitment to achieving a realistic, fair, humane and compassionate national asylum seeker policy. A policy which reflects Australia's international obligations and which recognises that we have a world-wide refugee crisis from which we should not seek to isolate ourselves. We are not affiliated to any political party. We do have links with the National RAR group.

What are we trying to do?

We are seeking to shift the public perception of asylum seekers and refugees by providing factual, objective information about refugee issues, about government policy and pronouncements, and about our obligations under international law. We want to end the demonisation of asylum seekers by politicians and the media and we support an evidence-based, humane and lawful set of responses to refugee issues. We seek an urgent end to offshore detention and the resettlement in the US, New Zealand or Australia of the detainees currently held in Australia, in PNG and on Nauru.

How do we campaign?

 Since 2014 we have worked to inform the public and to influence politicians through a range of activities, which have included:

·      sending out fortnightly updates to our 650+ supporters.

·      providing information to the public at our local market stalls.

·      organising regular roadside demonstrations.

·      writing letters to the press and to politicians of all parties.

·      collecting signatures on petitions and open letters to politicians.

·       organising fundraising events to support national refugee charities.

·      regular postings on our Facebook page and on our blog.

·      meeting together at intervals to discuss and plan our activities.

·      selling refugee-related merchandise on our market stalls.

How can you help us to promote the plight of asylum seekers in 2021?

·      sign up to receive our fortnightly updates.

·      join us at our market stalls in Bellingen, Valla Beach and Coffs Harbour.

·      take part in our fortnightly roadside demonstrations.

·      put a RAR bumper sticker on your car.

·      contribute to our letter-writing campaigns.

·      attend our occasional discussion, planning and social meetings.

·      support our fundraising activities. We raised an amazing $13,600 in 2020, which we donated to the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown.

Our contact details:

Email:   Blog: Updated 14.1.21

An open letter to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison (Petition)


An open letter to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison

Dear Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the plight of the many hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers who, years after seeking asylum in Australia, still remain in limbo on Nauru and in PNG, and in detention centres or Alternative Places of Detention in Australia. Most of them have severe mental health and other problems as a direct result of their ongoing and indefinite detention. Medical experts report that many of these people are getting increasingly sick as time goes on. The cost in human suffering is enormous and unconscionable. It’s time to show humanity and to end their torment.

We call on the government to immediately release refugees and people seeking asylum and commit to their resettlement in a safe, permanent home by World Refugee Day on 20th July 2021.

























































  Published by Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR. Email:

Please return completed sheet to: Mike Griffin, 39, Rogers Drive, Valla Beach, NSW 2448 by 25th April 2021

Letter to Minister Dutton

Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa.
Dear Minister Dutton,

I was pleased to read the reports about the significant number of detainees who have recently been released from MITA and from the Melbourne APOD. I trust that the remaining detainees in Melbourne and Brisbane will be released into the community in the days ahead, now that you have discovered that this is a cheaper option.

These men have endured years of suffering and torment at the hands of the Australian government.  Many of them require significant and ongoing medical treatment. All of them need to be reassured that they are now safe and can look forward to permanent resettlement in Australia, the US or New Zealand. We owe them no less. We have a shared obligation to allow them to rebuild their lives, to feel secure and to be valued as members of the community.

To that end, I call on you and the government to take the necessary steps, and to provide the appropriate support, for all of these men to embark on a pathway to permanent resettlement. Let us never forget that it is their right, under international law, to seek asylum in Australia, regardless of their mode of  arrival.

Given that, as you rightly observe, it is much cheaper to release asylum seekers and refugees into the community rather than hold them in detention, then surely this presents  an ideal opportunity to free the Sri Lankan family of four from their prison camp on Christmas Island and to return them to Biloela, where they will be welcomed with open arms by the local community. Why spend millions of taxpayers’ money in an attempt to keep them out of sight and out of mind – something that, to date, you have failed to achieve?

And why is the government planning to spend in excess of $1 billion in this financial year in order to perpetuate the torment of some 270 people on Nauru and in PNG?

Please take the necessary and urgent steps to bring to an end the untold misery that has been inflicted on all of these people. It is time to bring this terrible and deeply shameful chapter in our history to an end.

Yours sincerely,

Mike G.




Team Canada wishes everyone Happy New Year 2021.

We are launching a New Years Team Effort to help Amir Sahragard who was sponsored from Manus to Pay It Forward to sponsor a Mother, Fari and Daughter, Shah from Indonesia.


Fariba and her 22-year old daughter Shaghayegh have been living stateless in Indonesia for seven long years – forced out of their home country for practising the Bahai faith. They can never return to Iran, and their situation as refugees in Indonesia is bleak.

Amir Sahragard who was imprisoned on Manus for 6.5 years and sponsored by Stephen Watt to Canada met Fari and Shah in Indonesia in 2013 on his way to Australia. They were to be on the same boat to Australia but fate separated them. Amir is paying it forward to sponsor and fundraise to bring them to Canada.

Names: Fariba and Shaghayegh
Profile: Iranian mother and daughter living stateless in Indonesia
Advantages: UNHCR certified, strong English, educated humanitarians
Risk: Detainment and death in Iran, detainment and poverty in Indonesia
Fundraiser: $36,000 to sponsor Fariba and Shaghayegh
The opportunity: Private sponsorship to Canada

On the Run

After her husband left her, Fariba did her best to create a happy family life for herself and her two children, daughter Shaghayegh and son Ali. The children went to school, the mom pursued a twin career in sales and as a professional swimming instructor. They were a normal family in most respects.

Except one: they practised the Bahai faith – considered a heretical sect in their country. According to national law, citizens are only permitted to be Shia Muslims, and practising any other religion (including Bahai and Christianity) is punishable by death.

When the government found out about their faith, the family had to flee the country for their lives. The first to escape was Ali, who was 16 years old at the time. He travelled to Indonesia then on to Australia by boat in 2011.

There he was captured and placed in detention, first off shore of Australia, and then in Sydney. He remains in detention today. He misses his mom and sister, and suffers from depression, with no way back or forward.

Fariba and Shaghayegh  then just 14 years old, left the country soon after. They travelled to Indonesia, with the hope of reuniting with Ali, but that hope was quickly dashed after Australia stopped accepting refugee arrivals by sea.

Current Challenges

Since 2013, Fariba and Shaghayegh have been stranded in Indonesia, in a life in limbo.
They are forbidden by law to work, study, drive, marry, travel or to even hold a bank account. Without these basic fundamental rights it is impossible for them to live a normal life.

Staying in Indonesia means a constant struggle to survive, excluded from all aspects of regular life. Going back to Iran means prison, possible torture and death. They are desperate to find a home and live a normal life.

How you can help

They have one hope, and this is it: A group of five Canadians will sponsor their application and support them in making a new life in Canada.

Good news: both women are officially certified as refugees by the UNHCR, which means they qualify for Canada’s private sponsorship program.

We just need the funds to make it happen. The total set by Canadian immigration for two adults (Shaghayegh is 22) is $36,000. That amount includes:

  • 12 months of income ($26,400) for:
  • Shelter: $14,016
  • Food staples: $210
  • Startup costs: $6,600
  • Household needs: $600
  • Furniture: $2,170
  • Clothing: $770
  • Funds to exchange from Australian to Canadian $3000

As soon as this money is collected, it will be transferred to Canada and held in a secure bank account co-managed by members of the sponsorship team. When Fariba and Shaghayegh arrive, the money will be disbursed under guidelines laid out by the Canadian government.

The Opportunity

Fariba is eager to return to work, and to her passion of coaching and mentoring young athletes. Shaghayegh's greatest hope is to continue her education, abruptly cut short when she was 14 years old. She was once an accomplished swimmer, winner of many competitions.
They are both hard working, conscientious women who are highly motivated to succeed in a country – they just need a chance.

A wonderful private sponsor group is coalescing. If you are interested in joining our team of sponsors, please contact Amir Sahragard, Stephen Watt or Carole Ito . Their application is now being completed.

Our focus now is to achieve our fundraising goal, in order to take the next step to bring Fariba and her daughter to a safer, more productive life. If you can help financially, please visit our chuffed fundraiser.

Thank you for your support. And help spread the word by sharing this fundraiser.

DONATE to bring Fari and Shah to Canada