Click on subject of interest shown on the right under the heading "labels" to see all relevant posts

To look at letters (and some replies) sent to politicians and newspapers, scroll down the index on the right hand side and select the appropriate heading.

Note the blog allows multiple labelling and all letters to politicians are under "letters to pollies".

If you scroll down and cannot go further, look out for icon "Older Posts". Click on that to continue

History and Photos

Valla Community Markets January 2015

BRAR has existed for many years, set up in 2001 and this page will remind readers of some of the efforts that have been made to bring compassion to the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

Bellingen Rural Australians for Refugees

Record of Events

1st weekend  Bellingen Global Carnival forum on refugees addressed by Natasha Verco, Refugee Action Collective (RAC) – Freedom Bus to Woomera – motivating Bellingen Shire people to action on behalf  of detainees. List of interested people.

October 10          First meeting in Bellingen of what became (briefly) Bellingen Refugee Action Collective.  12 local people attended, plus Natasha Verco and Merryn, from Sydney-based RAC.   20 others on the list, unable to attend.  Welcome Book to be initiated and circulated - messages to refugees in detention.  Weekly meetings followed.

November 17        First stall at monthly Bellingen Community Markets

November 27       Bellingen RAC decides to become Bellingen Rural Australians for  Refugees.  RAR 10 Point Action Plan adopted. 

November 29       Forum ‘Refugees in Australia – What Can We Do to Help Them?’
at Uniting Church Centre.  Recorded on CD by local radio 2BBB.

December           BRAR stall selling candles at ‘Candles by Candlelight’ in Bellingen.

January 07         Freedom Bus departs Sydney bound for all detention centres.
Four Bellingen RAR members on board, including Co-driver Anne Simpson.

February ?          The first letters responding to detainees who threw notes over detention centre fences, wrapped around rocks, with their names and I.D. numbers The beginning of the letter-writing project managed by Walter Schwarz, BRAR.

February 20        Freedom Picnic/Concert in Bellingen Market Park to celebrate the Homecoming of the Freedom Bus.  Footage from the Freedom Bus Journey, live music, stories, reading of letters from detainees.
Attendance:  500-600 people.
March 7/8          Tiger 11’s soccer team visit, billets with Bellingen RAR members, 
Breakfast at Old Butter Factory Café, followed by match with High School and community teams.


March 23           Hosting Refugees Workshop attended by BRAR members.

March 24           Psychic Fair in Bellingen – donations to BRAR

April 21             BRAR stall at Nambucca Heads – Valley Community Arts Group.

May                 Collection of statistics re professions and trades of detainees.

May 16              Cool Creek Café – performance by local singer/songwriter Sandy Clarke - fundraiser for BRAR.

May 18              An Evening of Magic with Yuri the Storyteller – share of proceeds To BRAR.

May 31              AMES NSW Voluntary Home Tutors’ Course, ACE, Coffs Harbour begins,
Attended by three BRAR members

June 01/02         Continuing course.

June                 Books Behind Bars project – aprox. 10,000 books into detention centres.
June 22             ‘Faceless People’ action in Coffs Harbour area and at forum at The                            Bunker gallery.

July 22             Welcome Book sent to Port Hedland

July 26             BRAR protest – Philip Ruddock – Woolgoolga (a.m.)
BRAR members joined mass protest at University of New England, Armidale (p.m.).

July 27             ‘Waking Up the Nation’ – film from the Freedom Bus - presented
                      at The Memorial Hall.

August 04          BBQ Lunch for Sudanese refugees from Coffs Harbour at BRAR                                member’s home

August 05          At meeting Steve Biddulph suggested a memorial in (in Coffs Harbour)
                      to the people who died on SIEVX, including a school competion for
                      design.  (Later to develop into the SIEV X memorial in Canberra).

August 18           BRAR members present workshops at Ballina schools

August 25          BRAR representatives attend Planning Day with  Lismore RAR

August 28          Tampa Day - BRAR speakers invited to Alstonville Anglican Church


September 17       Quiz Night at Cool Creek Café

October 4-6        Bellingen Global Carnival.  Punch & Judy show – starring Philip Ruddock
                      - Children Overboard/Welcome to Woomera.  Stall- 300 badges sold.                       Forum panel includes Bob Brown, Jack Thompson and Camilla Cowley.

October 19          BRAR stall at Community Markets marks the anniversary of the
                      sinking of the SIEV X.  Speakers’ Corner - talk by Ross, Dave and                            Cherry (Woomera Tent Embassy).
                      Memorial service by the Bellinger River led by Uniting Church Minister –                    multi-faith readings, Steve Biddulph re SIEV X, live music and flowers                         caste into the river.

October 28         Local MP, Luke Hartsuyker (Nationals)  in attendance at BRAR
                      Meetomg, as invited.

November 23              Farewell party for Steve Biddulph.  Presented with puppet lookalike
                      created by Amanda.

December 6,7,8     RAR conference, Mudgee, five BRAR members attending.
                      Anne and Julian visit Baxter and Woomera.


February 15         ‘No War’ march through Bellingen and Community Markets.  BRAR
                      Presence – banner ‘Bellingen Rural Australians – for Refugees – Against                     War’.  3000 take part in march.

March 21            First meeting of daytime BRAR group.

May/July           BRAR members Irene and David visiting and taking gifts from BRAR                           to Baxter, Port Hedland and then second visit to Baxter.

June 19             International Refugee Day forum at Coffs Harbour Education Campus.
                      BRAR stall.

August 29 & 30    Bread’n’Jam 24 hour non-stop event showcasing performances by local
                      artists and musicians, plus a forum, including guest speaker Rosemary
                      Gillespie (human shield, Iraq), films and slideshow.  Fundraiser.

September 18       ‘Refugitive’ - one-man performance by Iranian actor/playwright, Shahin                      Shafaei, portraying his 22 months, mainly in isolation, in Curtin.


October 24,25,26  ‘Portrait of Sakhi’ – 7.5 min. film about artist Afghani refugee, Ghulam                     Sakhi in which through powerful images he relates the story of his                        journey.  Shown before each feature film at Bellingen Valley Cinema.

November 26              Recorded at meeting that the letter-writers now number 1700                                nationwide.

Nov/December      ‘Toys for Nauru’ campaign in Bellingen  through businesses and
                      Surgeries co-ordinated by local Doctor and wife.


January 24         Decision at meeting to focus on the election this year rather than
                      fundraising and other events. The SIEV X Memorial
                      Project has 86 schools express interest.  The kit almost ready.

April 03             Nambucca RAR fundraiser for Baxter DC at Nambucca Cinema –
                      ‘Molly & Moborak’ plus ‘The Story of the SIEV X’. 

April 10             At meeting Steve Biddulph reported now 140 schools committed to
                      SIEV X memorial project.

May 02             Bellingen Community Fiesta – BRAR information table.

May 19              Blessing of ‘Flotilla of Hope’ at Coffs Harbour – on the way to Nauru.

May 19              ‘Flotilla of Hope’ bound for Nauru blessed by Bellingen Uniting Church
                      Minster and greeted/farewelled by members of BRAR.

May 22             Five films – ‘Show Mercy’, ‘The Cage Huse’, ‘Untold Story: The Story of                      the SIEV X’, ‘It’s Like That’ and ‘ Molly & Mobarak’ presented
                      By BRAR and Bellingen Valley Cinema – fundraiser.

June 19             World Refugee Day – ‘Trees for Refugees’ –.  Rainforest trees planted                by the creek in Market Park, aided by Bellingen Urban Landcare group                           Plaque: “In the hope of a permanent future”. Present at the                                  ceremony: Merlin Luck, the Mayor Mark Troy and singer Sandy Clarke.

August 31           BRAR member Irene visit to Baxter until 6 August.

September 10       RAR benefit film night at Sawtell Cinema – ‘Farenheit 9.11’


October 01-03      Global Carnival.  Stall.  Hypothetical with Julian Burnside, Anne Coombs
                      John Highfield, Cheik Kone, Alanna Sherry and Tony Kevin.  SIEV X film
                      showing in photography exhibition tent.  Information Stall plus wet                          sponge throw – target John Howard.

October 07         ‘Put Yourself in Their Shoes’ demonstration outside local M.P. Luke
                      Hartsuyker’s office in Coffs Harbour.   Laid out 86 pairs of shoes, plus
                      birdcage filled with white doves bearing children’s names + street                            march.

October 26-29     SIEV X Exhibition, Sydney

December 10        RAR received 2004 Human Rights Highly Commended Award for                               outstanding service to the community in promoting and protecting
                      Human rights in Australia.


January 22         Latest figures of number of people in detention:  800 (in 2001 there                          were 9,000).  92% overall asylum seekers granted refugee status.

March 19&20       RAR Highlands Gathering (conference).  Anne and Rob Simpson step
                      down from 18 months dedication as Administrators of RAR and received
                      The 2005 RAR Captain Arne Rinnan Award.

April 25             Ann to visit Baxter and hand over to new Administrators in Port Pirie.

June 18             Pavement Art Competition in Bellingen ‘Courage’ – the theme for World
                      Refugee Day

August 13           Current situation around 20 asylum seekers remain in Baxter and 32
                      On Nauru.

September 17       Market stall focus on Temporary Protection Visas and Bridging Visa E.

October 15          Market stall focus on SIEV X Anniversary with 353 ‘droplets’
                      suspended around the stall symbolising the people who drowned, the
                      ocean and tears.

October 08         The last official Bellingen RAR meeting.

December           Walter Schwarz closes the RAR letter-writing program.


               BRAR members organised the preparation of poles for the SIEV X
                      Memorial in Canberra by BRAR and local schools in Bellingen Shire.

October             Assisted at the site and participated in the first Memorial Ceremony.

               BRAR members assisted at the site and participated in the second
September 02      Memorial Ceremony with the poles placed in the ground.

 The New Rural Australians for Refugees Bellinge and Nambucca Districts

BRAR meeting at little church Repton Sunday 13 April 2014

BRAR picnic at Nambucca on Sunday 6 April 2014
Spreading the word against persecution

History is now repeating itself

Freedom Bus journey to all detention centres in Australia 2001

Freedom Bus
kids at Port Headland detention centre

Port Headland detention centre

Siev X memorial
sievx memorial

Bellingen RAR at Global Carnival

tell the story
Flotilla of Hope 2004 travelling to Nauru

Teddy bears taken to Nauru for asylum seeker children

link to SMH article on flotilla of hope

blessing of flotilla of hope at Coffs Harbour

Asylum Seeker Memorial in Bellingen

preparing the memorial garden at market park

Merlin at Memorial opening after his action on Big Brother TV show

link to smh article on Merlin's protest on Big Brother program  mute protest