To begin the New Year on a positive note Ballarat RAR was presented with a generous donation of $5,000 from UFS Dispensaries. Also it has been a relief to have an increase in regular donations coming from the Ballarat community.
This money is gratefully appreciated which goes towards supporting many refugees and people seeking asylum in the Ballarat community, particularly those severely impacted by loss of income during the pandemic.
Ballarat RAR and Ballarat Amnesty Group joined together to mark Palm Sunday 2021 with a combined rally.
Ballarat has some big activities planned this year.
June 20, 12.30pm. Support Neil in his 6.2 km walk around Lake Wendouree, to highlight the mental health burden that people seeking asylum and those on temporary protection visas carry.
Art installation – Ballarat Trades Hall 20 – 26 June
10am – 4pm. Free entry
Book launch: 22 June, 1pm
INDI GATHERING 17 APRIL 2021
In bright autumn sunshine, close to a hundred people gathered in the grounds of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Wangaratta. As members of RAR groups in the INDI electorate, they had come to share ideas and to find practical ways of supporting refugees.
After the COVID hiatus, it was decided that there was a need to revise… update, inform… and renew. What was the best way forward? After introductions by host Reverend Ken Goodger and a moving Welcome to Country by Aunt Betty of the Bangerang people, well known Independent Cathy McGowan opened proceedings by reading a letter from her equally well known successor in Indi, Helen Haines, who was unfortunately unable to attend. Helen’s apology emphasized her commitment to a humanitarian approach to refugees, referencing policies in Sweden and Spain as examples of what is possible. Cathy then introduced a series of speakers, each of whose individual points of view were informed by experience, thought and commitment.
The Reverend Tim Costello recalled Australia’s honourable refugee history, referring specifically to Sir Robert Menzies’ speech in World Refugee Year 1959. The then Prime Minister urged ‘sympathy for those less fortunate than ourselves who have been the innocent victims of conflicts and upheavals’, on the basis that it was ‘a good thing that Australia should have earned a reputation for a sensitive understanding of the problems of people in other lands; that we should not come to be regarded as people who are detached from the miseries of the world.” As Reverend Costello observed, we choose our values.
Senator Lidia Thorpe drew parallels between indigenous and refugee experiences, observing that, in this our only world, we are all connected. A refugee recently released from detention spoke about past experiences and present gratitude for the freedom to lead a productive life here in Australia. Finally, Jane Favero from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) spoke about ongoing campaigns and practical ways in which RAR might contribute, both on an individual and a group level.
After lunch, people moved into small groups to discuss and decide on three priorities for their particular networks. Each group was to report back on what their group was going to do, why they had prioritised that choice, and how they intended doing it. In the final plenary session, the following common priorities emerged:
- to address immediate issues such as the detention of the Biloela family on Christmas Island, the release of those still in hotel detention and the extension of basic human rights such as Medicare and Job Seeker to refugees.
- to support the work of organizations such as the ASRC and Sanctuary through fund-raising, information sharing and advocacy for a Bill of Rights.
- In view of a pending election, through letter writing and social media to convince political parties of the need for a just, clear and compassionate refugee policy.
A reinvigorated gathering dispersed at about 3 o’clock. After twenty years, it’s about time. People are RAR – ing to go.
STUDENT ART EXHIBITION
What an exciting event sponsored by the Fleurieu Refugee Support Group!
Over 100 entries from across the Peninsula and supported by local, state and federal pollies!
Compassion, creativity and clarity of message were outstanding in the art work from our children and youth, untainted by inhibition and reflecting Australian values of fairness and harmony.
“We need to embrace all of humanity” (age 14)
“Love around the world” (age 7)
“Let’s eat together” (age 9)
“Giving thanks to earth and water” (age 14)
“Sharing the stars” (age 8)
“Together we can light up the world” (age16)
Every entrant was a winner judging by the reactions of over 200 visitors. The three judges struggled to separate out entries with greater merit, but at the end of the day, along with a People’s Choice, there were 14 prizes of cash, vouchers and goodies donated by our community, Rebekha Sharkie, Moira Jenkins, Glen Rowlands and locals Linnett and David. The amazing Awesome Foundation donated $1000 in recognition of the value of the event to the Fleurieu community.
This unique show at the Yankalilla Showgrounds came together organically. In response to Covid restrictions, people were creative, generous and supportive. There were contributors from many quarters of our community, too many to name, and with an ongoing passion for change we are hoping Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly are right when they sing “from little things, big things grow”.
Two examples of our outstanding future generation are Valentina and Grace. (pictured)
“The faceless children in detention” and “Connected” were sculptural art works depicting the consequences of detention, pleas for harmony and a recognition that placing others in harm or failing to protect the innocent have consequences for all humanity. We were moved too by Valentina’s generous response to winning a prize, which was to immediately donate a substantial amount to a refugee welcoming group in Adelaide.
Other highlights of the day were the presentations from three different cultures. Susan is from the Kaurna Meyunna, and her family has been in the area for about 60,000 years. She led us through a lovely acknowledgement of Country and an activity for connection with each other.
This was followed by an outstanding interactive drumming and singing performance by Bortier and Ezekiel, that was possibly heard across the peninsula! Then the Rapid Bay School Choir sang with energy and warmth the theme for the day, “We are one, we are many…..” They were accompanied by well-known local musos, Robert Moyer and Robert Bean, valued members of our group.
Overall, the day was a delightful mix of art and music in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. The cooperation across the councils and schools of the Fleurieu was heart-warming. Our group was moved by the experience and encouraged to pursue future events focussing on community harmony. A smaller exhibition was supported by our Victor Harbor members in the foyer of the Council and Library at Victor Harbor, allowing an even greater exposure of some of the artworks for 10 days following this event.
Welcome – We Are One
During Refugee Week in June 2020 the Fleurieu Refugee Support Group launched a Student Art Event that will culminate in an exhibition on Saturday October 3rd of artworks based on the theme “Welcome – We Are One”. To ensure the success of this project, eight of our members are providing support to eight schools in Yankalilla, Myponga, Rapid Bay, Victor Harbor and Port Elliott, plus a home-schooling group.
This event has potential for tremendous reach and sustainability, as students share with families and friends their ideas about creating a welcoming community and spreading a spirit of sharing. Articles in local papers before and after the exhibition further promote community discussion that can dispel misinformation, prejudice or fear. The event may be held annually featuring different themes and involvement of refugee and community groups and fostering the engagement of youth in the arts.
This is an exciting initiative! To find out more, check out the Events page for more details.
COVID-Masks raise Funds
for Alexandra RAR and Mansfield RAR
Operation Free a Refugee!
RAR joins the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI)
RAR became a full partner of CRSI in July 2020. We were part of the initial working group and have now stepped up as a member of the Steering Committee. We did this because RAR membership has long shown its support for a community sponsorship program which would enable ordinary Australians to sponsor refugees from overseas. This is along the lines of the program that has operated in Canada for over 40 years, and some 300,000 refugees have settled in Canada through that.
The federal government is currently reviewing its community sponsorship program and we want to be part of the changes that are in progress.
Who is CRSI?
Affiliated organisations are The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) and the Sanctuary Australia Foundation
What does CRSI do?
The Myer Fund has given CRSI funds for three years to advocate for the adoption of a national scheme or a pilot project. This money means that CRSI can have dedicated staff to work on achieving this outcome. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously slowed down initial plans, but here are some key milestones:
- The Shergold Review 19.02 Shergold review-integration-employment-settlement-outcomes-refugees-humanitarian-entrants was released in November and recommended a review of the current Community Sponsorship Program which is expensive and limited. The Government agreed to this, and a review will happen this year
- CRSI is building awareness of community sponsorship and what it offers Australia. (Check out this recent webinar for MPs and senior staff during Refugee Week)
- Because there is no travel at present, CRSI is launching a Local Group Mentoring Program.
Local Group Mentoring Program
“CRSI, along with a number of key partners, is launching a Group Mentor Program and we are looking for mentor groups to join us on this journey as the trailblazers for a new era of community sponsorship in Australia.
We appreciate that many of you are already supporting refugees and asylum seekers in a variety of ways, but this project is a bit different so please read on.
This small program will pair up to 12 local community groups from across Australia with refugees already in Australia who would benefit from receiving practical support right now.
Mentor groups would:
- help us test and refine a comprehensive sponsor training package which has been developed by Canadian experts and others at the forefront of programs in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere
- assist a refugee individual or family for six months in a variety of ways which may include help with orientation in your local community, help finding work, assistance with education and homework or addressing other specific needs, with access to back-up advice from a settlement agency
- allow us to follow your group’s progress, so that we can highlight the triumphs and also understand and cater for the likely challenges that a future sponsorship program might face.”
RAR GROUPS IN EDEN-MONARO SPEAK OUT FOR REFUGEES
This month there was a closely-fought by-election in the NSW electorate of Eden-Monaro. (The ALP candidate, Kristy McBain, won the seat). There are seven RAR groups in this electorate and they combined forces to draw attention to refugees and people seeking asylum. Through one virtual meeting, they agreed to send out questions to the candidates, prepare postcards to send, and write letters / send press releases to the local papers.
Regrettably, the ALP, Liberal and National parties did not respond to the questions. But the minor party candidates who replied showed a generally compassionate approach to the situation refugees face.
This is a great example of RAR groups working together. The nine groups in Indi meet regularly via teleconference to keep in contact and keep the electorate focus front of mind.
We knew that refugee concerns would not sway the election but we wanted the issues raised and not swept aside.
Read the press coverage in these links: Monaro Post 20.07.01 MonaroPost letter 1-7-20
Yass Valley Times 20.07.01 YassValleyTimes01July20
Canberra Times 20.06.28 CT article
RAR GROUPS SUCCESS IN RAISING FUNDS FOR REFUGEES TO GO TO CANADA
Two RAR groups have been active in fund-raising to enable refugees from Papua New Guinea and Nauru to take up private sponsorship in Canada. Both these groups raised these funds in just a few weeks. This indicates that many people see this as a positive step to help get the refugees out of their imprisonment in off-shore detention and onto a new life.
RAR Group: Airey’s Inlet RAR (VIC)
Caption: Free a Refugee Campaign Committee members Jules Rolfe (L) and Kathryn Feather with the cheque to the Australian Refugee Council of Australia. (Image sourced – Airey’s Inlet RAR VIC.)
Small town, big response
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees (AIRAR) raised $18,500 in just three weeks to fund the freedom of a refugee detained on Nauru, through resettlement in Canada.
AIRAR set about this challenge by first establishing a Golden Pledge program where people pledged $500 to the campaign, and then opened it up to $50+ pledges.
Under the Canadian Government’s private sponsorship scheme, an application through the Refugee Council of Australia can only proceed once the money has been paid. The funds are then used to support the refugee’s living costs for the first year after arriving in Canada. Volunteer teams across Canada are assisting all new arrivals.
Blown away by the community’s generosity, there was clearly a readiness to be involved in such a positive campaign – to help give a refugee a new start, a new hope and perhaps an increased faith in humanity after such appalling times.
In the end, over $23,000 was raised, with the additional funds being donated to the RCOA to be put towards another refugee seeking a new life in Canada.
For more information, contact Jules Rolfe
Mobile: 0400 507 668
RAR Group: Armidale RAR
In March, Armidale RAR, in association with Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement, launched the Nauru to Canada Appeal. This was to raise funds to enable a Rohingya refugee on Nauru to reunite with his family and settle in Canada through that country’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program.
We worked closely with Ads-up Canada, who selected the refugee and determined how much we would need to raise: $52,000. Amazingly, we reached this goal in less than 2 weeks, and eventually raised a total of $53,654. The latest is that the family’s sponsorship group in Canada has been approved and their application is officially in process.
Rohingya refugee family to be reunited in Canada after Armidale Nauru to Canada raises funds
Sanctuary’s Jeff Siegel said funds needed to reunite a family had been raised in less than a fortnight.
Funds raised by Armidale’s Nauru to Canada Appeal will sponsor a new life for a Rohingya refugee, currently stranded on Nauru, when he is reunited with his wife and children to live in Canada. Gratitude and excitement were clear in a What’s Ap message sent by the man to April Tafe, an Australian-based representative of the Canadian organisation Ads-Up, and an organiser of the appeal.
“Hi April, I have so much emotion about what is happening and it is difficult to believe it. I haven’t gotten any good news in seven years until now. It is happening because of all your hard work and organising. I don’t know how to thank you,” he said.
“It is hard to imagine that there are such amazing people in this world like you and the people of Armidale to help me. I have tears in my eyes thinking about this and everyone who has helped me without knowing me. I owe you and all those people and I will never forget the kindness. In my faith, we say if you help to unite a family it is worth more than 100 mosques or churches.”
Sanctuary’s Jeff Siegel said A$52,000 was needed to have the family-sponsored under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Canada’s program has provided a space for permanent residents, members of organisations, associations and groups to engage in the resettlement of refugees since the 1970’s.
“In a little less than two weeks we’ve raised $53,404,” Jeff said. “It’s amazing, the community response has just been fantastic. The vast majority of that money has come from the Armidale community. People are really concerned about this particular man who has been in Nauru for more than six years, and people are also concerned about the government policy that’s allowed this man to be stuck in that place for so long.”
Jeff said it would take a few months for the application to go through the system, and it was still necessary for the man’s identity to be kept secret.
(Article sourced from The Armidale Express)
For more information contact:
Mobile: 0434 146 856
Refugee Council of Australia is working with Canada Caring Society and MOSAIC to raise funds.
Ads-Up is another group of Australians in US, Canada and Australia fund-raising and working directly with volunteers in the US and Canada.
An article from the UNSW on A Brutal Welcome: Riots and a pandemic greet Manus and Nauru refugees landing in the United States
Find out more at http://www.ausrefugeesponsorship.com.au/
June 2020 National Refugee Week
Ballarat RAR has created a short video for refugee week, to highlight the various actions we have taken in the last 18months – Rallies, book launches and fundraisers in support of refugees and asylum seekers in Ballarat and nationally.
June 2020 – Ballina Region 4 Refugees
Ballina Region for Refugees committee members Stanley Yeo and Lisa Dillon (rear) with Patrick Gillett (front). Photo supplied by the Echo.
Last month Ballina R4R was delighted to receive a donation of $10,000 out of the blue from Vivienne Court Trading Pty Ltd [VivCourt] an Australian financial trading firm. This company aims to ‘generate wealth with a social conscience’ and has charities as a stakeholder, rather than shareholders. So each year they donate their profits to charities. The employees get to choose these. The Alston-based representative of the company, Patrick Gillet, chose BR4R after getting to know an Afghan refugee running a coffee shop in Brisbane
Ballina R4R said the money couldn’t have come at a better time. ‘With all fund-raising activities halted by the Coronavirus shutdown, BR4R was gradually depleting its financial reserves in an effort to continue supporting refugees and asylum seekers both in Australia and offshore,’ Vice-President, Stanley Yeo said.
Ballina Region for Refugees will donate $2,000 of the money to Operation#NotForgotten, a scheme to resettle refugees in Canada. Funds will also be allocated to refugee legal support, to medical support and to other frontline services.
What a great story! Let’s hope more companies take on this kind of approach to giving.
Thanks to the Echonet Daily for sharing this story.