Members of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group (BMRSG) took their campaign to the Windsor office of Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, on Thursday, July 19. The gathering was part of a national day of vigils held around Australia to mark the deaths of 12 male asylum seekers in permanent offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. Twelve empty chairs and 12 pairs of shoes were placed outside Ms Templeman’s office to represent the death of each of the young men. Many of the men, aged between 23 and 34 years old, died from suicide, including overdose and self-immolation. The vigils, named ‘Five Years Too Many’, also marked the fifth consecutive year of refugees and asylum seekers being incarcerated in these centres, established on July 19, 2013.
Members of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group combined with the Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children to hold a vigil outside the Federal Member for Lindsay Emma Hussar’s offices in Penrith on Thursday. The gathering was part of a national day of vigils held around Australia to mark the deaths of 12 young male asylum seekers in permanent offshore detention centres created by the Australian government on Manus Island and Nauru. The vigils, named ‘Five Years Too Many’ also marked the fifth consecutive year of refugees and asylum seekers being incarcerated in these centres, established on July 19, 2013. Twelve empty chairs and 12 pairs of shoes were placed outside Ms Hussar’s offices to represent the death of each of the young men.
A little more than a year ago two members of BMRSG met with Aasha (not her real name) who had escaped a horrific situation in India with the help of friends. Once she arrived in Australia she applied for asylum. Aasha was being supported by a STARTTS counsellor, her rent was mostly being paid by a leading charity which aids refugees, so BMRSG agreed to pay her $60 per week towards the rent plus $20 for her ongoing medications and fares. A few months later the charity said they were no longer able to pay Aasha’s rent. So, it appeared Aasha would be on the streets.
Latha and Bobbi arrived in 2013 and since that time they have established their new life by working, education and training and created a vegetable with two small children. This is a story of how one couple has managed to survive and thrive despite the difficulties that Australia places in front of those seeking asylum. Refugees do contribute.
Standing up for human rights is about picking the battles that are long and exhausting precisely because they are the ones that matter the most. Even after five years of misery and oppression, Behrouz Boochani hasn’t given up. So how on earth can any of us? As he said in his keynote address via video from Manus island last night at the Annual Human Rights Dinner in Sydney: “Our advocacy will be acknowledged as truly valuable and worthwhile only when we can secure the release and safety of the refugees imprisoned on these islands.” Never give up. We won’t.
Did you know the Tamils fought alongside the ANZAC’s at Gallipoli? I attended my first Tamil ANZAC service a few years ago and was very moved by the spirit of ANZAC being so richly acknowledged in the Tamil community. This year I once again had the privilege to attend this function. It embraced the Christian, Islamic and Hindu religion. The reading of Psalm 23 by a young Tamil man was breathtaking and the Australian Anthem was sung beautifully (including the second verse) . Siva, a member of Ocean 12 Cricket Team lay a wreath alongside various dignitaries. There were about 300 people at the service. This was followed by the cricket game between Ocean 12 and the Navy.
Six members of BMRSG attended the Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) National Conference held in Wodonga in April 2018. One of the group Roger Grealy writes of his experiences of the conference. This is Part 1 of 3 articles on the wide range of speakers, workshops and great people we met.
Seven weeks ago we started our third term of the asylum seeker swimming program. Each week this very enthusiastic group of youngsters with their mums and dads arrive at the Blacktown Aquatic Centre for their “extended “ swimming lesson. These lessons are thanks to BMRSG supporters and the terrific volunteers.
Michelle Nayahamui Rooney grew up on Manus Island and returned to her home in November 2017. Here is the story of her childhood, what Manus island means to her as she tries to explains what the detention centre has done to this community. "My poem Chauka, yu we? started as an angry reaction to the appropriation of the Chauka and the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. As a scholar and as a Manus Islander, I have tried to reason through the historical, political, social and moral issues that gave rise to the detention centre. At the same time I am left angry, sad and guilty..."
If the Department of Home Affairs was trying to stop detention centre visits with its new, punitive visitation procedures, then it may have worked. Last month the Department of Home Affairs changed the visitation protocols for Australian detention centres, provoking outrage and hunger strikes among detainees. Here, Rebekah Holt attempts to navigate the new system for her weekly Sunday visit.