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Rural Australians for Refugees
10 Point Plan

As a Nation …
Australia should
  • Receive asylum seekers in accordance with the humane standards set out in the United Nations Convention on Refugees which Australia signed in 1954.
  • Close all off-shore and remote detention centres and take full responsibility for processing asylum seeker claims here in Australia.
  • Rescind all current legislation that condones and even encourages human rights violations and establish a formal multi-party parliamentary committee to draft refugee and asylum seeker policies that will gain bipartisan support.
  • Do more to improve public understanding of the plight of asylum seeker issues and to dispel common myths.
  • Provide orientation, training and support to urban and rural communities willing to assist refugees with accommodation and employment.
In our Region …
Australia should:
  • Work with our Asia Pacific neighbors to find co-operative and non-punitive solutions to the flow of refugees into and through the region.
  • Ensure that countries currently hosting disproportionate numbers of refugees are given appropriate support.
In the Global contest …
Australia should:
  • Use its position on the United Nations Security Council.
  • Seek a world -wide increase in aid for refugees.
  • Seek to influence oppressive governments who are persecuting their minority groups.
Rural Australians for Refugees calls on the Australian Government
to seek solutions at a global, regional and national level
to address the international asylum seeker and refugee crisis.

Rural Australians for Refugees – RAR

The pro-refugee network is a vast mosaic of overlapping networks: lawyers, church people, human-rights advocates, welfare workers, political activists and ordinary people; from highly skilled professionals with specific expertise to the many thousands who have joined a grassroots movement striving to return compassion and humanity to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

One strand in this network is – Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR), an informal network of regional groups supporting and advocating for refugees and people seeking asylum.

Our Patrons

Julian Burnside

Julian Burnside, AO QC, the acclaimed “Australian National Living Treasure” winner of the Sydney Peace Prize, and highly regarded long-term advocate for asylum seekers and refugees agreed to become an Honourary Patron for RAR in 2015.

“Rural Australians for Refugees have been calling for a fair go for refugees ever since the infamous Tampa event, when the Pacific Solution was created  and 438 asylum seekers rescued by the Norwegian cargo ship Tampa were forcibly diverted to Nauru.
Since then, these local groups have persisted in their work; visiting refugees, raising money for their food, clothing and shelter and holding public meetings that draw attention to more compassionate policy options.
To my observation, RAR has been the most impressive and dedicated group supporting refugees.  What they have done is little short of inspirational.  RAR has my greatest admiration and my full support. “

Professor Gillian Triggs

In 2017 Professor Gillian Triggs also agreed to become an Honourary Patron for RAR.

As Professor Gillian Triggs left the position of president of the Australian Human Rights Commission ­in 2017, she said she had seen human rights for women, asylum-seekers, refugees, the homeless and ­indigenous Australians regress in the last five-years.

It’s partly because we have a government that’s ideologically opposed to human rights, and I think it’s exacerbated by the distance of most Australians from where these problems are actually most visible,” she told ABC radio.

Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Attorney General, described Professor Triggs, as a “fearless champion of human rights”.  “It is appalling that senior ­figures in this government have sought to vilify and bully her for courageously doing her job,” he said. “It is deeply concerning that this government has been unable to even consider criticism from such an eminent Australian.” 

The RAR National Committee 2018/19

  • Marie Sellstrom, President – Mansfield RAR
  • Margaret Rasa, Vice President – Castlemaine RAR
  • Penny Vine, Secretary – Albury Wodonga RAR
  • Phil Buttner, Co-Treasurer
  • Chris Buttner, Co-Treasurer
  • Caitlin Rowe, Social Media Coordinator –Armidale RAR
  • Ruth Fluhr, Home Hosting –  RAR Strathbogie Shire
  • Gerry Gillespie, Committee Member – Queanbeyan RAR
  • Kathie Herbert, Committee Member – Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group

President-Marie Sellstrom

Marie has been a life-long worker for social justice.  Besides the achievement of the ten RAR National objectives, Marie would like to see more men and young people in RAR, as well as growth in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.  She lives in Merrijig in Victoria’s high country.





Vice-President – Margaret Rasa

Margaret has been a bureaucrat in Australia and overseas on refugee issues.  As a community campaigner she is passionate about the wisdom of communities and the power of people to bring about change for good.  She lives in Castlemaine, Victoria.


Secretary – Penny Vine

Penny has had an extensive medical career. Since 1997 she has been working in a refugee sponsorship program through the Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Group, and in supporting schools for refugees in Africa.  Penny lives in Albury-Wodonga.




Co-Treasurers – Phil and Chris Buttner  Phil and Chris live in Yackandandah.


Home Hosting – Ruth Fluhr

Ruth has lived on the Strathbogie Tableland for 25 years. Professionally, she has been closely involved, throughout her working life as a second language educator and editor, with a wide range of people from many places on the globe – migrants, international students and refugees. She knows firsthand what a difference a friendly, helping hand makes in the transition of such people to a new, productive life in a new country, and also appreciates the riches she has gained through these interactions. Her particular focus as a RAR National committee member is refugee advocacy through home hosting.

 Committee Member – Gerry Gillespie

Gerry has been involved in the recovery of organic materials and their reuse in soils for 30 years both in Australia and overseas, including roles in New Zealand and consultancy work in Egypt, China, Scotland, India, Wales, France, Japan, Taiwan and the US. With an emphasis on community engagement, he developed the City to Soil collection program and helped refine an inoculant-based, odour-free, no-turn compost process based on the work of M. E. Bruce and Sir Albert Howard.

He has current projects in the fields of biochar, foliar fertilisers, feral animals, food waste and compost. He currently works as an Organics Consultant to Resource Recovery Australia, farmers groups and councils.

Committee Member – Kathie Herbert

Kathie’s working life has been and still is with books, both as a librarian and bookseller.

Kathie has been involved with political issues since she was a child (attending her first peace rally when she was 10) coming from a family who were driven by high ideals and determined to leave the world a better place.

She has been involved in the Anti-Vietnam War movement, the women’s movement, Public Education through the NSW P&C Federation amongst others.

She is now on the management committee of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and it’s Advocacy sub-committee.

Welcome Scroll Coordinator – Jan Govett

The Welcome Scroll is a joint project with RCOA (Refugee Council of Australia).  The Welcome Scroll is a “travelling” register of local government councils who have ratified their shires as Refugee Welcome Zones.

For the Information about the Welcome Scroll:
Mobile: 0417 313 037

  • National RAR Website is managed by Peter Sobey (Bellingen RAR), Helen Merrick (SE Tasmanian RAR), Linda O’Neill, and Jan Govett (Bendigo RAR)
  • Social Media Coordinator is Caitlin Strong (Armidale RAR)
  • RAR Representative on the ARAN – Australian Refugee Action Network 2018-2019 Committee is Jan Govett (Bendigo RAR)

For information about Rural Australians for Refugees

History of RAR

Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) was launched in a number of NSW towns in 2001 with public meetings (in Bowral and in Armidale). RAR members took to the streets and shopping centres of their local towns to hand out leaflets and discuss the issues.

Further public meetings were held in Cootamundra and Lismore. Groups were launched in Orange and Goulburn. RAR spread to Victoria, and then to other states.

The growth of RAR is a refreshing reminder that progressive-minded and humanitarian people are as likely to live in small towns and regional Australia as they are in the cities.

There are hundreds of people in rural Australia, ordinary people, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, whose concern has catapulted them into activism, many of them for the first time in their lives.

RAR Reborn –

Message from Anne Coombs, Helen McCue, Susan Varga – Co-founders of RAR in 2001

As the convenors of the original Rural Australians for Refugees, which began in 2001, we are absolutely delighted to hear that key Victorian groups are working together to re-invigorate RAR.

This move will hopefully get the national network happening again at a time that couldn’t be more crucial for refugees and asylum seekers.

Anne Coombs, Susan Varga and Helen McCue

One of the great strengths of RAR was to bring together people of like minds but from often very different backgrounds, and to give them the opportunity to work for refugees in whatever way suited them.

Another key strength was giving a voice to rural people – a voice that wasn’t expected by politicians or people in the cities.

There is a new surge of activism around this issue ready to be harnessed. People have been missing RAR and its unique voice.

We are confident that the experienced and enthusiastic activists in central Victoria are the right people to get RAR back into the national debate.

December 2014

RAR Today –

  • Aims to raise public awareness of the issues involving asylum seekers and refugees
  • Writes letters to newspapers and politicians
  • Meets members of parliament to challenge inhumane policies
  • Provides practical help to local refugees
  • Fundraises for asylum seekers and refugees
  • Attends rallies and vigils

We invite you to consider how you might work with us

  • Join one of the Refugee and Asylum Seeker support groups.  There are many RAR groups, community groups, church groups working to improve the lives of Asylum Seekers and Refugees
  • Engage in Fundraising,  Awareness- raising, and/or  Advocacy
  • If there is no group near you, consider starting one
  • Visit Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Detention Centres
  • Letter Writing – to Politicians – MPs Addresses   Senators Addresses
  • Visit our Facebook Page – Rural Australians for Refugees

Want to have your Asylum Seeker or Refugee Support group listed on our website?  

Send details to RAR Admin –