In the next sitting of Parliament, the Coalition intends to bring on a vote on the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019. The Bill has passed the House of Representatives and is now before the Senate. While framed as a simple adjustment to the Migration Act 1958 (the Act), the Bill would in fact significantly expand the character-based powers of visa cancellation and refusal, making them dangerously and unworkably broad. If passed into law, the Bill would increase the number of people in immigration detention and facing removal from the country. Both Labor and the Greens recommended the Bill be rejected, after a Senate Inquiry was warned of its dangers. The passage of the Bill now depends on the vote of unaligned Senators. The Bill is bad law and should not be passed. It is deliberately unclear, concentrates power in the hands of the Minister and his delegates, and will harm families and communities. Contact your Senator.
On Monday, Marie Standen from Faulconbridge was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to refugees, and to the community of the Blue Mountains. "I must admit it's a great honour, there isn't any doubt about that," she said. The 89-year-old is enormously pleased with the group's accomplishments over the years. They visit refugees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, and through extensive fundraising they have been able to help refugees settling in the community with the cost of education, paying bills, or replacing worn out clothes or shoes, or when their children might be in need of new glasses.
Like everyone else the BMRSG community faced huge challenges when we were told to self isolate. But the refugees on various temporary visas faced much greater challenges. Distressing stories are coming through all the time about situations where jobs have been lost; people have been exposed to COVID 19 and expected to self isolate in crowded accommodation. Those on bridging visas, and that is most households we visit, have virtually no Covid19 related entitlements or general Centrelink access. They also may or may not have Medicare entitlements
This is an amazingly tough family! We first met them in 2013. They are still in the High Court appeal process so receive no Centrelink payments or Medicare. When we first met. Aamaal* was 12 years old and was the person who liaised with us as she had the best English. There is a younger brother Chandra. Neither parent spoke any English.
After surviving what he describes as two death threats, Anustiyan Sivapalan made the decision to flee Sri Lanka for Australia. "They come to my home, they tried to kill me, but luckily I escaped from the shootout," he said. "That's why I [was] forced to leave." While the psychological scars caused by an experience like this are too complex for many to understand, Mr Sivapalan has found a community where stories like his are the norm. He has been playing cricket for a suburban western Sydney team called Ocean 12 that is comprised of Tamil asylum seekers.
A house full of single men cut off from their families is not always the most serene of places. A house in Liverpool was one such place, full of Tamil men from Sri Lanka and living now very far from home. No mothers, no fathers, no children, and no wives, and this not by any real choice of their own. Many of the young men in this house had Australian residency, but without citizenship they cannot bring their families over to join them.
My Mum passed away a year ago at 98. Not long before, she had magnets made for everyone that said "Christmas is the key to the future' This year It hit me that the Christmas story of a baby born to a homeless refugee family destined to bring A Christmas message, Peace to the earth, changes what we value in this sad old world whatever belief system we follow. Decisions made from a Christmas value base are the key to a future where we care for each other and our aching planet. In these last days of a hard hard year , as the mountains burn around us let us be grateful for the faithfulness of those who live by these Christmas values.
Congratulations Ocean 12 winner of Last Man Stands (LMS) Australian Championship 2019. It still seems impossible to believe that all those years ago this group of traumatised men who played cricket appallingly have achieved so much. They still manage to shelve their worries and fears and show their amazing ability as a team which has rocked the world of 20/20 cricket. They will compete in the World Champs in Sydney in December.
Two young men, both left their home countries aged 3. Both now call the Blue Mountains home and are part of the BMRSG community. But two very different stories. Read part 2 in our series Who Are We?