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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