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.
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.
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.
Mountain Activist off to Bourke Bourke has gained a treasure, while the Blue Mountains, especially the Refugee Support Group Detention Centre visiting team, have lost Kath Sneddon, one of their great stalwarts. Refugees in Sydney have lost a great advocate. Kath’s cheerful energy has lightened many a depressing day at the Villawood Detention Centre while her home cooking and great free range stuffed eggs were a great favourite with home sick refugees stuck in indefinite detention – until Minister Dutton’s Border Force decided home cooked food was a security risk!
"The Turnbull government has introduced an amendment to Parliament to remove strict secrecy provisions governing Australia’s immigration detention system. The move has been described as “a major victory for refugee advocates who challenged the laws in the High Court”. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton introduced amendments to the 2015 Australian Border Force Act that previously threatened detention centre workers with two years in prison if they spoke out about neglect or abuse." Susan Templeman MP Member for Macquarie spoke on this Bill.
Ever wondered just where BMRSG spends the most welcome donated money. Let me share a story with you. In November last year Tavam's children were attending the swimming school we were running. Tavam accompanied the children and in this delightful non-threatening environment Tavam told me about his well-worn boots. They were issued in detention years ago and have been his only footwear . These are not ordinary boots but boots with specialist built up sole on one shoe.
Our very own Youth Shoebox Project kicks off for the second year to give a warm Blue Mountains welcome to children and young people seeking refuge and asylum in Australia. Go to their Facebook page Youth Shoebox Project to find out how you can be part of this great initiative.
The 2nd article on the work of BMRSG in 2015. Read about more of the diverse activities undertaken by BMRSG volunteers.