The cliffs and escarpments of the Jamison Valley provided a stunning backdrop to this year’s get-together at Katoomba’s new cultural centre.
The meeting room with the best view in the Blue Mountains was packed by BMRSG members and visitors who came to share their stories from a year of activities and to recognise the successes and struggles of the asylum seekers who are trying to make a new life in Australia.
Several members spoke briefly about their work with refugees. Chairman Wayne Buckman kicked off by describing the achievements of members who help asylum seekers directly as well as support members who are involved in administration, fund-raising and communications. The curtains were then drawn and an edited version of the moving film Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was shown.
After tea and biscuits, Jackie Mayers recounted her visits to detainees at Villawood detention centre, describing the distress, anxiety and pain of people who have been traumatised and then deprived of their freedom. Robyne Reichel talked about visiting families in what appears to be an ordinary suburb but is, in fact, a detention area, guarded around the clock by Serco guards.
Grant Medaris then described the Herculean efforts of a small group of members who find employers willing to engage people on bridging visas. The work also involves preparing CVs and training asylum seekers in jobs such as forklift driving. An outstanding result – 28 asylum seekers have been employed.
Grant Medaris and Mike Howorth have also been finding work for men who are on permanent protection visas. These people desperately want to get off benefits and join society. Grant and Mike talked about the marked change in the men who find fulltime work – but emphasised that they had been through great trauma and would need more help to remake their lives.
On a bright note, Craig Beifus described the outstanding success of Everyday Hero, the new website facility that has raised a remarkable $12,000 – creating the highest bank balance ever. Everyday Hero has attracted many anonymous donations.
And to finish, Tony Sharpe told of caring for newly released asylum seekers who have been placed in empty houses. Tony is very moved by the generosity of members who have donated beds, mattresses, bedding, clothes, food, kitchenware and tableware. The impact of this generosity on the recipients is dramatic: they experience the kindness of Australians, in stark contrast to the harshness of our government.
Several members of the audience offered help with future activities. And many thanks to Lis Bastian of the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre who provided a wonderfully attractive venue.
Annual General Meeting
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba, 14 September. 2013
Chairman Wayne Buckman welcomed everyone and presented the Annual Report.
Moved Graeme Swincer, seconded Tony Sharpe that the report be accepted.
Minutes of AGM held on 8 October 2012 were accepted as a true record of the meeting. Moved Grant Medaris, seconded Alison Sloan.
Treasurer Michael Morley presented the financial report. Moved Michael, seconded George Winston that report be accepted. Michael also complimented Craig Beifus on the Everyday Hero initiative and mentioned the exceptionally generous donations received throughout the year.
Wayne declared all committee positions vacant and handed the chair to Blue Mountains Family Support Service Chairperson Susie Van Opdorp to act as returning officer and conduct the election of the new committee. Susie acknowledged Wayne’s contribution and spoke about the benefits of cooperation between BMFSS and BMRSG.
Since there were insufficient nominations to fill all the positions, the following were declared elected:
Dr Hal Ginges – Chairman
George Winston – Secretary
Michael Morley – Treasurer
Committee members: Craig Beifus, Grant Medaris, Noeline Nagle, Marie Standen, Tony Sharpe.
In Hal Ginges’ absence Wayne Buckman took the chair again, thanked the previous committee and expressed his satisfaction in working with it throughout the year.
The meeting closed at 5pm.
Apologies: Marie Standen, Hal Ginges, John Hockney, Helen Hockney, Toni Cornet.
Present: Suzie Van Opdorp, Maurice Brady, C.Edward Kerr, Zoe Hale, Craig Beifus, Jean Winston, Robyne Reichel, Noeline Nagle, Tony Sharpe, Anne-Marie Clifton, Jacke Mayers, Jane Howat, Kathie Herbert, Marion Davie, Penelope Park, Grant Medaris, Sue Swincer, Graeme Swincer, Jan Clarence, Alison Sloan, Sarah Shrubb, Michael Morley, Wayne Buckman, George Winston.