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Letter From The Asylum Seekers Centre


As we come to the end of another year, I find myself once again endlessly impressed and inspired by the work we have been able to do with the support of our amazing staff, volunteers, and supporters like you.

While the geopolitical landscape around the world and the policy environment here in Australia remains challenging, the incredible courage, persistence, and kindness of those seeking asylum, and those who dedicate themselves to supporting them, helps motivate and energise.

As our volunteer coordinator Charles Bartella, who was formerly supported by the ASC, puts it, “I still remember all of the volunteers who supported me through my journey to getting Australian protection… Your help, even if it was brief, is valued by our community and is remembered for many years and is acknowledged through generations.” 

This year has been characterised by opportunities, victories, and challenges.

The long-awaited Nixon Review into Australia’s visa system released in October has potentially profound implications for those who have been seeking asylum for up to 10 years. Providing certainty and a safe future in Australia for those who have lived, worked, and built lives in our community for a decade must be a priority for the federal government in 2024.

Similarly, the High Court’s recent ruling that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful was a triumph for human rights and the rule of law, bringing an end to a 20-year cycle of uncertainty and inhumanity.

It would be remiss to ignore the toxic debate and knee-jerk policy reaction that followed, which Greens leader Adam Bandt aptly criticised as a “race to the bottom”. As we look ahead to 2024, we must not allow ourselves to be dragged back to a time when the slogan “stop the boats” crowded out the inhumanity of doing so.

In good news, the Asylum Seekers Centre celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. The journey from a small house in Surry Hills to today’s facility in Newtown has been long but immensely rewarding.

At the event celebrating our milestone, Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar spoke of the transformational power of art, and of an ambition for the future of community cohesion here in Australia. As Moz so eloquently put it:

“There is no fence between you and I anymore. You are my family.”

This future relies on all of us. And with plenty of opportunities and challenges ahead, we must redouble our efforts.

Thank you for all your support in 2023, and as attention turns to the new year, I look forward to working with you, our supporters, to help those who need it most. 

From everyone at the Asylum Seekers Centre, have a restful and peaceful holiday season.

Best wishes,

Frances Rush OAM
CEO, Asylum Seekers Centre

P.S. I hope you were able to read the letter we recently sent you from a young person seeking asylum, Arben*, outlining his experiences growing up ‘in limbo’ in Australia. Arben’s is a voice that is often not heard, and he speaks of the many barriers he experienced being unable to access the same opportunities as his peers. You can help more young people like Arben get access to education, employment pathways, healthcare, and social opportunities in 2024, by making a tax-deductible donation here. Thank you.

*Arben has chosen a different name to remain anonymous


Dear Minister Giles

                                                                                                                                                                                       7th December 2023

Dear Minister Giles,

Please find enclosed an open letter, addressed to you, and signed by 245 people who recently visited our Rural Australians for Refugees market stall. The letter states:



We were delighted to learn recently that you had decided to grant the Sri Lankan asylum seeker Neil Para and his family permission to remain permanently in Australia. That was an eminently sensible decision, and a timely reminder that you are able to exercise your authority to intervene in these cases.

There are some 10,000 other asylum seekers in the same situation as the Para family, and the Biloela family before them. Must they each, in turn, win the active support of their local communities to draw attention to their plight? That should not be necessary, nor is it practical. Instead, you should finally recognise that it is time to end the uncertainty for these families and grant them permission to remain in Australia. They have suffered enough. They want to get on with their lives. Please act now to end their torment.

These people pose no threat to our country nor to their communities. Their claims to remain here should be urgently reviewed, with a view to granting permanent residency to all those who are found to have a right to our protection under international law. The government should urgently allocate the necessary resources to expedite their claims.

I look forward to receiving a positive response from your department.

Yours sincerely,

Mike G....

Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR




Our concert in Mylestom Hall on Sunday 19th November was a sell-out! 

The audience enjoyed great performances by the Sawtello Gospel choir and by our local singer-songwriters Snez and Stewart Peters. During the interval we enjoyed delicious treats made by our resident chefs Ton and Chris.


Ticket sales amounted to $2,400. When we add in sales of raffle tickets, RAR merchandise sales, CD sales and donations, the final figure came to $3,280. That is a great result, and means that we will certainly exceed last year’s record donation of $17,400 to the Asylum Seekers Centre. We will let you know the final figure for 2023 in our January newsletter.

The raffle was drawn during the interval and was won by Gillian Workman, who is one of our longstanding volunteers. Congratulations, Gillian!

A huge thank you to the Sawtello Gospel choir, their Musical Director Andrew Davis, and to Snez and Stewart for their tremendous generosity in performing for us without charge. Thank you also to Lisa Milner for putting the whole show together and to our great team of volunteers.



Dear Minister Giles, October 6, 2023



                                                                                                Valla Beach.

  NSW 2448                   

                                                                                                6th October 2023

Dear Minister Giles,

Please find attached an open letter, addressed to you, and signed by 442 visitors to our market stall in recent weeks.

We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of the many thousands of asylum seekers in our communities around the nation who continue to live in fear and uncertainty, more than a decade after they arrived to seek safety on our shores. It is important that your government allocates resources as a matter of urgency to resolve these outstanding cases. These people need to be enabled to rebuild their lives after their years of suffering. They are already here, they want to contribute to their communities, they are keen to work and for their children to learn. History shows that refugees have contributed greatly to Australian society. Please give these people the opportunity to do likewise.

I look forward to receiving a positive response to our open letter.


Yours sincerely,


Mike Griffin

Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR


Dear Minister Gile 2


Dear Minister Giles,

I write to appeal on behalf of the 10,000 asylum seekers currently living in precarious circumstances in our country. Many of these people have settled into life in society here by now, and are providing a contribution in the form of voluntary work of various kinds. Most asylum seekers, if granted permanent residence, would prove to be responsible members of our social and economic fabric, so I urge you to exercise your ministerial powers to act towards this outcome in the near future.

Yours sincerely, Jeremy Barrett

Dear Minister Giles,

Dear Minister Giles,

I was delighted to learn recently that you have granted Sri Lankan asylum seeker Neil Para and his family the right to remain permanently in Australia. Your decision to exercise your ministerial powers in this situation is a positive and compassion act, which I applaud.

Yet, there are thousands of other asylum seekers like the Para family and the Biloela family before them who have been languishing on precarious visas for more than a decade. They live in a state of permanent uncertainty and fear, having fled their homelands to seek safety in Australia. They rely for the most part on the kindness and generosity of the communities that they live in. They are not in a position, like the Biloela family and Neil Para, to draw attention to their plight in order to gain your attention. Nor should they need to.

It is surely time for you to use your ministerial powers to finally take action to regularise the status of these people and to grant them permission to stay in Australia. That would be of enormous relief to all the asylum seekers caught up in this terrible situation, and would be widely welcomed by the communities who have supported them for more than a decade.

Please act as a matter of urgency to bring this sorry chapter in our history to an end.

I look forward to a positive response from you.

Yours sincerely.

Mike Griffin

 19th September 2023


Letter: Dear Prime Minister : Recent revelations about the awarding of contracts - Nauru Reprocessing Centre

Dear Prime Minister,

The recent revelations about the awarding of contracts to businesses involved in the oversight of the Nauru Reprocessing Centre are a matter of serious concern. Media reports indicate that the Home Affairs Department oversaw millions of dollars going to Pacific politicians through a chain of suspect contracts, with a money trail implicating major politicians in a systemic misuse of taxpayer funds. In addition, it was reported that a detention contract worth $9.3 million was awarded to a businessman at a time when he was being actively investigated for corrupt conduct.

None of this should come as a surprise. Keeping asylum seekers out of sight and out of mind has been the overriding priority of successive Australian governments, regardless of the impact on their wellbeing. Their human rights have always come a poor second. The immorality and lack of integrity of the whole process of offshore detention have rarely been a focus for the government’s attention.

What is now urgently required is a Royal Commission to examine the whole structure of offshore detention. We need a clear exposition of the policy, and we need to understand the true costs of more than a decade of detaining people who have sought asylum on our shores. That includes the true costs in relation to funding, the treatment of asylum seekers on Nauru and in PNG, the impact on their lives and the damage caused to Australia’s international reputation.

I look forward to your response.


Mike Griffin


$127 in sales and donations

We had a very productive presence at the sunny Valla Beach market on Saturday. Lots of interest in our work from  market -goers, who signed 83 postcards which we have sent to the Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles. We also took $127 in sales and donations, which will be donated to the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown.

Our next stall will be at the Coffs Harbourside market on Sunday 18th June.


A brief report about Saturday’s Bello market:


We had a beautiful sunny day for our RAR stall at the popular Bellingen market on Saturday 20th May. Lots of visitors to our stall, who happily signed all of our 100 postcards to the Minister for Immigration, calling on him to grant permanent residence to the 12,000 refugees still living in limbo in our communities. We also sold lots of gift cards and other merchandise, with all the proceeds destined for the Asylum Seekers Centre. A big thank you to our great team of volunteers.




Market report from Valla Beach


We had a lovely sunny day on Saturday 1st April for our RAR market stall at Valla Beach.  We handed out leaflets, interacted with market-goers, sold our popular gift cards, and collected 82 signatures on our postcards to the Minister for Immigration, calling on him to bring the refugees remaining on Nauru and in PNG to Australia whilst their claims for resettlement are  processed.

A special thank you to the Valla Beach Community Association, who very kindly organized the donations collection at the market entrances on our behalf. The collection raised a hugely impressive $508, which, together with money from our market sales, will be donated to the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown.

Mike Griffin


Don't miss out!

 Six new beautiful gift card designs by our resident artist Marlene Griffin. The cards, together with more than twenty existing designs, will be on sale at our stall at Valla Beach market on Saturday 1st April. All proceeds to the Asylum Seekers Centre, Newtown.









1.      Rally in CanberraPermanent Residence for all.

A refugee rally was held on the lawns of Parliament House on Monday 6 March, calling for permanency for all refugees in Australia, not just those on TPVs and SHEVs.  It was attended primarily by refugees, and many stayed on for several days, to strengthen their point that many have been excluded from the permanency offered by the Albanese Government.  Full congratulations to the refugee organisers who did a great job.


2.       This call for permanent visas for all is a big part of PALM SUNDAY. Rallies and other actions are planned for Sunday April 2.

Sydney:  Palm Sunday rally for Peace and Refugees for 2023 will be held at Belmore Park, near Central Station. The march will proceed up Broadway to Victoria Park where it will disperse.

Melbourne: Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees

Music from 1.30pm, speakers from 2pm at the State Library, corner Swanston and Latrobe Streets, Melbourne. Around 2.45pm Walk through the city to Parliament Gardens where there will be closing speakers and music until around 4pm.


RAR groups:  please send us your actions and we will list on our website and on the ARAN website.

More information:


3.       Mansfield RAR– Afghan refugees have arrived.  RAR group members have lodged sponsorship applications for hundreds of vulnerable Afghans.  It is uplifting to see that eight people have secured humanitarian visas and are being settled in the Mansfield area, with the support of RAR members.  There is one family of five and three single women.  We can only hope this is the start of more successful outcomes from our sponsorship applications. 

The Afghan Sub-committee haS urged us all to keep up our letter-writing to politicians and stories in local media, to ensure that Afghanistan is not ‘forgotten’.  The Albanese Government has promised 31,500 visas between 2021 – 2026.  A drop in the bucket of those that are needed urgently. 

4.       Watandar, My Countryman.
Many RAR groups will know Muzafar Ali and Jolyon Hoff and their documentary The Staging Post.  They have now produced another documentary. Jolyon writes:

The tagline for Watandar is “We’re all a little bit more connected than we think’ and every event will be an opportunity to connect our audience with the Cisarua Learning community. Hope to see you there.

When we are in your town or city we would love to visit your school or university, or even better arrange discounted daytime cinema screenings. .”

You can view the trailer here.

Confirmed Screening Dates 28/02/2023

NSW Mid-Coast

Apr 28th/29th - NSW Film Festival TBA


May 31st - 6:30PM Classic Esternwick, VIC [on sale here]

June 1st - 6:30PM Cameo Dandenong, VICon sale here]

June 2nd - 6:30PM Lido Hawthorne, VIC [on sale here]

June 3rd - 6:30PM Pivotonian Geelong, VIC

Brisbane & Sunshine Coast

June 7th - 6:30PM New Farm, QLD [on sale here]

June 8th - 6:30PM The J Noosa, QLD

June 10th - 6:30PM Maleney, QLD

Sydney, Bowral and Canberra

June 11th - 6:30PM Ritz, NSW [on sale here]

June 12th - 6:30PM Dendy Newtown, NSW

June 14th - 6:30PM Empire Bowral, NSW [on sale here]

June 15th - 11am Empire Bowral, NSW [Schools]

June 16th - 6:30PM Dendy Canberra, ACT

June 18th - VIC Film Festival TBA

June 19th - VIC Film Festival TBA

June 20th - 12PM & 6:30PM Griffith, NSW

Adelaide and South Australia

June 28th - Adelaide Academic Panel, SA

July 2nd - 8:30PM Marree, SA [Free]

July 5th - 6:30PM Pt Augusta, SA

July 6th - 6:30PM Piccadilly, SA

July 7th - 6:30PM Mitcham, SA

July 8th - 6:30PM Mt Barker, SA

5.      Refugee Week:  18 – 24 June 2023

The Refugee Council runs the annual Refugee Week and many groups take up this opportunity to run events that highlight the positive contribution that refugees make to our country.  Once again the Refugee Week website has resources and a listing of events for groups to use.  The theme this year is Finding Freedom.


6.       Neil Para –  a refugee’s story

Neil and his family live in Ballarat and are supported by many people there.  Neil is an active community volunteer, and advocates for people like himself who don’t have permanent residence.  He has written the story of his and his family’s life.  He published this first on Facebook and has now compiled this into an ebook.  He has asked us to promote it.  If you would like a copy, please email and Jonathan will forward you a copy.


7.       Neil Para’s Refugee Week event – Baxter Mums

Neil wrote to RAR and asked us to put out this call:

“Four Baxter Mums living in Geelong used to visit the detention center in Baxter. I am planning to have an exhibition to acknowledge their amazing work and also want to have other refugee activists' images too. Please volunteer yourself and/or let someone be at the exhibition.

I want your photo (half is preferred) and any photos were taken in the rallies or protests etc

Write a biography about yourself (about 200-500 words)

Optional: I will really appreciate it if you can help me to print your story and images. (cost/expenses) Printing will be at Ballarat Officeworks, so you can order print online, I can collect them)

I am also looking for some of the stories of those who had to depart before our plight ends.

Looking in any gender displays.”

If you can help, please get in touch with Neil.


9.       Voluntary contribution - thanks to the groups who have made a contribution to RAR.  Special thanks to Mansfield for their generous payment of $500.  These contributions are voluntary – there is no membership fee for RAR.  When groups make a payment, it gives the National Committee more scope for campaigning costs.  If your group hasn’t yet made a contribution, could you please consider this at your next meeting?

10.   RAR Website.  We launched the new website last year but I confess that it was not well maintained after the May election.  But our wonderful Communications Convenor has been giving it some loving attention.  Kat has developed a new page – Community Stories.  Here you will see an interview with Paul McKinlay from Buddies from Buderim.

The March Letter-writing kit is there.  This month the topic is Raise the Humanitarian Intake.  These are great resources for groups and supporters to use, as we continue our persistent and continuous call for justice for refugees.

That’s it from me – Guest Editor for the past two Updates.  Bernie Maxwell from Griffith RAR has offered to take on this role, from April.  We are very grateful to Bernie for this!

Louise Redmond

RAR National Committee


Rural Australians for Refugees on Twitter and Facebook 

RAR is a member of the Australian Refugee Action Network
Rural Australians for Refugees


National RAR update. January 2023


10th January 2023

Hello to all RAR Members and Supporters – welcome to the latest RAR update.

We hope that you have taken time to rest, enjoy time with loved ones, recharge your batteries, and prepare for the year ahead. It will undoubtedly be a challenging one for refugees and asylum seekers across the world, and we will need to retain our passion and resolve to support them in every way we can.

Permanent residency for some, sometime in 2023

In late December, the government announced that the 19,614 refugees who currently hold either Temporary Protection Visas or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas will finally be granted permanent visas in 2023. This is most welcome news. However, the government has said nothing about when in 2023 it will grant these people permanent protection, nor has it offered any information about the process for the transfer, which leaves a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety for the refugees involved. It is in everybody’s interests, including those of the NGOs and other groups who will be involved in the process, to have some clarity about when and how the transfer will be actioned.

We then need to ask what will happen to the other 12,000 asylum seekers and refugees living in Australia on various types of temporary visas. After more than a decade, some of them have not yet had their cases assessed, others are still waiting on the outcome of their applications, and many have had their applications refused because decision-makers have relied on outdated and flawed country information. It also has to be said that, with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal stacked with supporters of the previous government, many applicants were treated less than fairly, in spite of the merits of their case. The announcement of the abolition of the current AAT is most welcome, and we await news of the new appointments to the Tribunal and  details about when it will resume its operation. We look forward to a fair, timely and transparent process in the Tribunal’s treatment of applications for protection.

Surely, the most sensible, fair and compassionate approach to the treatment of these 12,000 legacy caseload asylum seekers is to expedite their transfer to permanent protection as soon as they have met the criteria for refugee status. They have been here for a decade or more, and we owe them the opportunity to finally have some sense of permanency and belonging, so that they can at last begin to rebuild their shattered lives.

Please consider writing to the Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil, and the Minister for immigration, Andrew Giles, about the issues outlined above.

  • Welcome the decision to grant permanent visas to the 19,614 people currently holding TPVs and SHEVs.
  • Urge them to urgently publish the timeline and process for the transfer to permanent protection.
  • Welcome the abolition of the AAT.
  • Urge them to urgently consider the plight of the 12,000 legacy caseload asylum seekers, and to expedite their claims for protection. In the meantime, the government should cease harassing these people to make arrangements for their departure to third countries. They are Australia’s responsibility and the government should show them some compassion.

Email addresses:


Little progress for asylum seekers on Nauru and in PNG

After more than a decade of torment and punishment, it seems extraordinary that the Labor government continues to ignore the plight of the almost 200 asylum seekers and refugees remaining on Nauru and in PNG. The government’s clear intent is that they should remain there until such time as they find third countries prepared to accept them, regardless of how long this might take. The plan to resettle 150 refugees a year in New Zealand, which excludes those in PNG, but does include some refugees in Australia, is a painfully slow process.

Meanwhile, the US-based Management and Training Corporation is being paid handsomely to provide “garrison and welfare services” to less than 100 people on Nauru. An amended contract notice, published on 23rd December, shows that the government is now paying MTC a total of $69 million for four months work up to the end of January. This is the same company that is now the subject of further potentially criminal allegations in the US, where it is alleged that MTC made prisoners sign falsified documents, enabling it to claim millions of dollars for in-prison therapeutic services that it did not provide.

Unsurprisingly, most of the refugees, who have been stranded on Nauru for a decade, are suffering from mental health issues, which is proving to be a serious obstacle in relation to completing their applications for resettlement in third countries.

The humane, and cost-effective solution, is for these refugees to be transferred to Australia to live in the community and to receive the support that they need whilst their resettlement applications are finalised.

Please consider writing to the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Immigration (details above).

  • Urge them not to extend the MTC contract beyond the end of January.
  • Ask them to transfer all the refugees who remain on Nauru to Australia to live in the community whilst their applications for resettlement are finalised.


Proposed actions at MPs offices


The first 2023 sitting of Federal Parliament is in the week starting 6th February. Those involved in November's Canberra convergence have suggested that groups rally outside as many MPs’ and Senators’ offices as possible in the preceding week, namely from 30th January to 3rd February. The intention is to send a coordinated message to MPs and Senators that they must urgently grant permanent visas to all the refugees currently on temporary visas.

The main focus needs to be on ALP MPs, plus the TEALs and Independents.  Rar groups in Coalition electorates are encouraged to take other actions, such as handing out leaflets to passing foot traffic outlining the issue and purpose of the action and writing a letter that is delivered to the MP: there are proposals to produce templates for both, and these will be circulated to groups in advance.

There is of course some value on the actions being on a single day, but it is probably better for RAR members to organise an event which best suits their needs and availability.

Please contact the RAR National President, Jonathan, at if you are interested, to help with coordination nationally.


Afghan sponsorship successes

During the Christmas break, the Department of Immigration granted several protection visas to Afghan individuals and families. A human rights lawyer and her four children who had fled to Iran several months ago were granted a Safe Haven Protection Visa. Three single women – a midwife and two women who had served in the Afghan army - and who had been moved to Pakistan with RAR support, were also granted visas. A father of seven, who had been a colonel in the Afghan army, was also, along with his family, granted protection.

We hope that this gives RAR supporters real hope and confidence that hard work and lobbying does bring results. We must move ahead in 2023 with renewed vigour.

Marie Sellstrom.

Convenor, Afghan sponsorship.


Palm Sunday Rallies: save the date

Palm Sunday, which falls on 2nd April this year, has been an important national date for rallies and other activities in support of refugees. RAR members have regularly made it a part of their calendar of events, though in recent times this has been more difficult due to the Covid pandemic.

The Australian Refugee Action Network, in which RAR is involved, has begun holding meetings to propose themes and provide resources for Palm Sunday actions. Your group can be part of Palm Sunday actions this year, so please start planning how you can use the occasion to keep up the pressure on the Labor government for permanent settlement for all.

Further details will be shared with RAR groups as they emerge.


Lessons for today from a refugee story of 1956

A few years ago, Sandy Watson, who is the convenor of the Trentham RAR group , wrote a book called  One Perfect Day. It was the story of 18-year-old Veronika Csosz who grew up in post-World War II in Hungary and fled the country after the Soviet forces invaded Budapest in 1956. Sandy writes:

This was the first time that the United Nations Refugee Agency and the international community had to deal with a refugee crisis of this magnitude, resettling 200,000 Hungarians in 37 countries in three years. It was a fantastic example of what can be done when the international community rallies and – as the world grapples with 89.3 million refugees forcibly displaced – of the urgent need for the international community to find ways to not only address and properly support communities managing displacement, but also to work together to minimize the causes.

Sandy has recently released an audio version of the book.

Originally published in 2013, One Perfect Day: Memoir of Veronika Csosz audio book is available now For further information, contact author Sandy Watson