News that RAR feels is important

Manning RAR at David Gillespie’s office



Dear David/Assistant Minister

Further to the brief message we delivered to you last week, and in response to the ongoing siege at Lombrum, here is my message just sent to the Prime Minister and to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

It is equally relevant to you as Assistant Minister for Health. I urge you to consider the urgent health situation (with details described by Doctors for Refugees in their email to you last night – 6th Nov), and confer with your colleagues about immediate action to avert a disaster.

Sincerely – Convenor
Manning Rural Australians for Refugees. Lyne electorate.

On Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 of September Marie Sellstrom and Margaret Rasa visited Canberra.  We met with Cathy McGowan member for Indi, Mike Kelly Labor member for Eden Monaro, Senators Richard Di Natale and Nick McKim from the Greens, Senator Sam Dastyari Labor for NSW, Shayne Neumann Labor member for Blair in Queensland who is also the shadow minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Lisa Chesters the Labor member for Bendigo.

Senators Richard DiNatale and Nick McKim with Marie Sellstrom and Margaret Rasa


It was a really productive visit with the members listening to the points made on behalf of members for Rural Australians for Refugees.  We will be visiting and meeting with politicians in the Liberal and National parties in addition to the Independents later this year.  Further updates on our visit and points for further visits will be discussed at local RAR group meetings and forwarded to the National team.


Evol McLeod from Yass and Gerry Gillespie from Queanbeyan explaining their members views to Marie Sellstrom

Cathy McGowan checking contacts for Marie Sellstrom

Outrageous Government changes
for asylum seekers brought to this country
Manus and Nauru for their health and safety.

How many people are likely to be affected by the Government’s changes?
  • 370 people, including more than 116 children.

    • more than 50 babies born in Australia;

    • 66 other children who were born overseas;

    • 83 single men.

    • 14 single women

    • The rest are adults within a family group (i.e. with children)

Where are they from?
  • Largely Iranians, Syrians, Afghani’s from a minority background, Burmese persecuted minority group Rohingya, and Sri Lankan Tamils.

  • They were all detained on Manus and Nauru, after arriving by boat from 19 July 2013.

Why are they in Australia?
  • All were brought to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island for medical care, some as the result of attacks, and more than 20 women who are survivors of sexual assault or rape.

  • Many were party to a High Court challenge to Australia’s offshore processing regime in Nauru. The challenge was unsuccessful after the government ushered emergency legislation through both houses of Federal Parliament, inserting a new section (198AHA) into the Migration Act providing a blanket authorisation for whatever action the Commonwealth might need to undertake to support its regional processing policies.

  • After the High Court loss, the #LetThemStay campaign was launched to prevent the Government returning this group to Manus Island and Nauru.

  • During the resultant Let Them Stay campaign:

    • State Premiers including Mike Baird, Daniel Andrews, Anastasia Palaszczuk, Andrew Barr and Jay Weatherill called for them to remain in Australia;

    • Church leaders across Australia invoked the historical concept of sanctuary, opening their doors to asylum seekers facing removal to the offshore detention centres.

    • Doctors at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital refused to release one baby, “Baby Asha” marked for return to Nauru until the government backed down and moved her and her parents into the community.

  • The Government backed down on its stated desire to deport the entire cohort to Nauru, and subsequently moved the vast majority of this group into the community, and they have been living in Australia since.

What are their conditions in Australia?
  • About 30 are still in held detention (in detention centers), some of these have been in detention for over 4 years.

  • The rest have been living in the Australian community, where they have been barred from working, but have received accommodation, children have been able to go to school, and they have received a reduced Special Benefit (approx $200 per fortnight) for food, clothing etc.

    • Of those living in the community, there are at least:

      • 100 in Victoria;

      • 60 in NSW;

      • 20 in South Australia;

      • 20 in WA;

      • 60 in Queensland.

    • Service providers are collating final state based locations now.

Our key messages are:

  1. minister throwing people onto the street after preventing them from working, and their applications being processed
  2. clearly an attempt to force them back to danger on Manus and Nauru by making them destitute in australia.
  3. Manus and Nauru absolute dead ends, they are trying to close them down
  4. just beggars belief that the government would make families homeless etc etc etc (pivot into who the effected people are)

This  decision is about politics not people. It is unconscionable to force families to choose between homelessness or certain harm in the offshore detention centres.

It appears that the Government will these people seeking our protection will be forced out of their homes, leaving them destitute and homeless.

These families are living in our communities. Building their lives. They have woken to terrifying news. There are kids who will be in classrooms who on Sunday woke up to incredible uncertainty. They will be confused and afraid. What do they say to their friends at school this week?

These are babies who were born in Australia, took their first steps here, who spoke their first words.

The Government must not starve people into submission and then send them back to harm. It must  do the decent and sensible thing and let them stay.

People affected by this harsh policy include babies born in Australia, women who have been sexually assaulted on Nauru, pregnant women and men badly injured on Manus Island. They have suffered great hardship at the hands of our Government.

This policy is not only cruel, it is simply impossible. The Australian Government has acknowledged that these offshore camps are dead ends. Last year they announced that some refugees may be resettled in America, but almost a year later, no man, woman or child has been settled in safety.

The Australian Government is closing down the Manus Island camp around the men who have nowhere safe to go. Nauru has no contractor to operate the camp after 31 October this year. It it preposterous to suggest that these people can be deported back to these offshore camps. It is clear that the Government has no plan to ensure the safety of these people. The answer is simple. These men, women and children must all be allowed to stay in our communities to continue rebuilding their lives in freedom and safety.

The govt agency that could stop what is happening on Manus, yet chooses not to
Greg Barns
Barrister and writer
Imagine if somewhere in Australia the wreckers moved in to demolish a building, turned off the power and water and removed the furniture while people were still living there. Rightly, there would be calls for the government to stop this inhumanity. There would be calls for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the demolition by the workplace regulator.

This is exactly what is happening on Manus Island, where the dismantling and demolition of the Australian and Papua New Guinea government-run immigration detention centre is taking place, following the PNG government’s May announcement that the centre would be closed by October this year. Detainees are without water, power, bedding or, importantly, any form of protection from harm by members of the local community. Yet the Commonwealth government workplace regulator, Comcare, is nowhere to be seen or heard.

[Refugees on Manus told to prepare for ‘illegal’ detention centre’s closure]

Comcare has a responsibility under the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act to ensure that Commonwealth government workplaces, and this includes offshore sites such as Manus Island and Nauru, comply with a duty to ensure that anyone who is in the workplace is safe.

Under this act, there is duty owed by those who run the workplace to ensure “so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking”. Importantly, under the act, the Commonwealth is liable for ensuring a safe workplace even if it has contracted out the management and day-to-day running of the workplace. So this means that the Commonwealth could not blame the contractors carrying out the demolition for breaching the duty owed under the act for the safety of detainees.

There are a range of charges that Comcare can bring against individuals or government departments that breach safety duties.

The circumstances of the demolition and dismantling of the Manus Island detention centre are such that it is fairly obvious the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is breaching the duty it owes under the Work Health and Safety Act to detainees. To carry out demolition and dismantling works while persons are still present on the site, including removing access to power, water, bedding and forms of physical security, is a case where it could be said that the Department is failing to provide and maintain “a work environment without risks to health and safety” as it is required to do under the act.

Given these circumstances, one would have thought Comcare would be looking at sending investigators to the Manus site, compiling a brief of evidence and contemplating charging the Department of Immigration under the act for this breach of duty.

There is potential for a charge to be laid that accuses the department of recklessly engaging in, “without a reasonable excuse”, what is called “conduct that exposes an individual to whom that duty is owed to a risk of death or serious injury or illness”. That offence carries a maximum penalty of $3 million. To insist on proceeding with a demolition and dismantling of the detention centre without caring about how to secure the safety of the detainees would seem to be a case of seriousness recklessness on the part of the Department of Immigration.

[Immigration’s cruelty and incompetence has a price tag: detainees win $70 million settlement]

But not only could Comcare lay charges against the Department of Immigration, it has the power to halt the current demolition and dismantling activity if it thinks that the work being carried out at the workplace is exposing people to injury. It can do this by serving what is called an “improvement notice” or a “prohibition notice” and, if the Department of Immigration refused to comply with a notice, Comcare can seek an injunction to force compliance.

In short, Comcare is a workplace regulator with serious teeth. It could, if wanted to, stop what is happening at Manus Island within hours. And it could, again if it wanted to, begin an investigation into the conduct of the Department of Immigration with a view to laying a reckless conduct charge.

But so far Comcare has been silent, and it is hard to fathom why, given that what is happening at Manus is being graphically described by detainees and advocates on a daily basis. Perhaps Comcare’s CEO Jennifer Taylor might like to explain why her officers are not hot-footing it to Manus to ensure the safety of vulnerable detainees in what is arguably the most dangerous of Commonwealth workplaces.

*Greg Barns is a barrister and a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance

Important Report

Four Years Too Many  – Report by GetUP and the Human Rights Law Centre: July 2017
Read the words and experiences of the innocent people whom the Australian Government has kept locked away for four years.

“All they want – all they’ve ever wanted – is a chance to build a future in freedom and safety.  
And that future must start now.” – Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre

Legal Representation

All Refugee Legal Services in Australia are facing the difficulty trying to assist people urgently given the Government’s recent crack down on people seeking asylum.

The Turnbull government has launched an unprecedented attack on people seeking asylum who after waiting over 4 years to apply for asylum, now only have until 1st October 2017 to lodge their refugee application.

It gets worse. If people don’t lodge their application in time, the government has threatened to take away their right to apply for asylum in Australia – something no other country has ever done.

Refugee legal services across Australia are urgently appealing to you to help us fund lawyers in order to keep the people safe.

To act now, go to one of these refugee legal services in Australia and donate: