Unsung Hero Award

 

JULY 2020 – Congratulations Sister Brigid Arthur csb!

Sr Brigid and Sr Catherine Kelly co-founded the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project (BASP) in 2001; since then it has grown in strength. Sr Catherine who specialised in visa applications died in 2015 and Sr Brigid continued as the driving force behind the project. From 2001 until 2020 Sr Brigid has visited detention centres and championed the cause of detainees. In 2011-12 there were nearly 3,000 minors in closed detention in Australia and by 2013 the numbers of families in detention in Australia had increased. Sr Brigid identified a group of vulnerable young Afghan boys at MITA and became their litigation guardian and with legal assistance took action all the way to the High Court. The intention of the litigation was to change the law to stop children from being held in detention. While this action saved these boys it did not change the law.

 

The BASP not only supports detainees but advocates to get detainees into the community and settles and supports them in the community by sourcing accommodation, furniture etc. Over the life of the project many hundreds of people have been able to live in BASP houses. In addition BASP undertakes community education and fundraising, visits schools to speak about asylum seekers, takes asylum seekers on outings and provides meals.

 

The aims of BASP are:

  • to provide hospitality and practical support for asylum seekers
  • actively network with like-minded individuals and groups who are working for justice for asylum seekers
  • promote advocacy for the rights of asylum seekers
  • raise awareness of asylum seeker issues and concerns through a range of activities

 

In 2016 Sr Brigid and Pamela Curr visited asylum seekers on Christmas Island.

 

For the last 18 years, BASP has operated as a provider that steps in when other agencies, for a range of reasons, are unable to support people seeking asylum.

 

In the video, Sr. Brigid provides a summary of her observance on how detainees go about their daily life in detention centres.

 

 

 


Photo, from left to right:  Sue Finucane, Laurie Mason, Max Costello, Cecily Mason, Gary Johnson, Colleen van der Horst

JUNE 2020 – Congratulations AIREY’S INLET LETTER WRITING GROUP

This month our UNSUNG HEROES are a group of amazing people from Airey’s Inlet RAR.

This group of dedicated people work hard to ensure they have the facts behind the letters they write to politicians and people of influence, and have developed this into a monthly campaign approach. Many RAR groups now use their work in their own letter-writing.

[If you would like to receive their monthly email of the letter, please email Cecily – ]

It is worthwhile telling the story of how this group developed to this point.

At the 2018 RAR National Conference many members voiced their admiration of Cecily Mason from Airey’s Inlet RAR who spent considerable time looking after RAR tee shirt sales and asking conference participants if they wanted to receive monthly notification and samples of letters developed by the Airey’s Inlet Letter Writing Group.
RAR groups write hundreds of letters each year which is extremely time consuming, not to mention the effort in selecting a topic and establishing the facts. Members thought this was a superb initiative. Thoroughly researched facts and samples of letters are an essential component or RAR letter writing campaigns and to have this work performed by such a dedicated team is fantastic.

Many people since the conference have commented of the effort, motivation and persistence which is involved each month in agreeing on a topic, researching, planning and writing really focused letters which support RAR priorities and campaigns.

Aireys Inlet RAR re-emerged in July 2014 under the leadership of Katherine Feather and Mary Bremner. The Letter Writing Team of Cecily, Gary and Laurie was one of five new special interest groups created.

The initial letter in August 2014 covered the issue of children in detention in Nauru. It was quickly realised that letter writing was most effective when a small team thoroughly researched and referenced a current topic for a letter to parliamentarians and national opinion leaders.

In 2015 the letter writing group with team leader Cecily and chief researcher Lawrie became involved in Julian Burnside’s letter writing campaign to people in detention, writing to the men in Manus. The members who had responses developed close relationships with the Manus men, with some still communicating today.

In early 2018 postcards related to the current letter were introduced at Aireys market, proving very popular with the general public. Recently Colleen Van der Horst joined the team, she excels at creating eye catching postcards with succinct messages on the current topic.

Currently the AIRAR letter writing team consults with the RAR Campaign Team providing “fact checked” letters that are distributed across RAR and other groups on “hot topic” issues such as ‘Kids Off Nauru’, ‘Medevac’, ‘The Cost of Detention’.

Members of the team are: Cecily & Laurie Mason, Sue Finucane, Max Costello, Colleen van der Horst and Gary Johnson.


MAY 2020 – Support Angela’s call to ‘Sign the petition’!

Rural Australians for Refugees nominates Angela Fredericks for the May Unsung Hero Award.

Angela has called for all supporters to take action against the proposed “Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Centres”.  This legislation  would give Australian Border Force (ABF) officers the power to confiscate the phones of asylum seekers and refugees being held in detention.

National Justice Project lawyers took Dutton to court for taking phones from asylum seekers and refugees in 2017 and won. Now he is trying to overturn that.

Mobile phones provide asylum seekers and refugees with a lifeline to the outside world, to loved ones and to advocates – their mental health, the protection of their human rights, and their families depend on their phones. They can also hold Dutton accountable by recording instances of mistreatment and cruelty.

As Angela siad “Without Priya’s mobile phone, Australians would never have seen how Peter Dutton had her dragged onto an unmarked plane in front of her little girls.”  Please sign and share the petition below

www.change.org/p/dial-it-down-dutton-don-t-take-away-asylum-seekers-phones

Why Angela is our Unsung Hero for May

Angela is a social worker in Biloela, Central Queensland.  She is a friend of the Tamil asylum seeker family, Nades, Priya, Kopica and Tharunicaa, who have lived and worked in Biloela for years.  In March 2018, they were taken from their home by Border Force officers and put in detention in Melbourne.  Angela reacted quickly and started to fight for the safety of her friends.  She admits to having no idea what she was doing when she launched the “#HometoBilo” campaign. Now over two years later she has learnt what it takes to lead a small town’s fight into the national arena, changing the hearts and minds of many along the way.  She has learnt how to use social media, how to mobilise hundreds of thousands of supporters around the country, how to explain the affection this small town has for this quiet family who simply seek safety and a place to raise a family and contribute to Australia.

The campaign #HometoBilo is not over yet.  Yet Angela maintains her positive, energetic outlook and keeps close to the family, now isolated on Christmas Island.  She keeps her supporters close to this family.  She keeps us active and showing our support, and how we want the Government to use its discretion to bring this family home.

Thank you Angela!

Support her and her wonderful work at www.facebook.com/solidaritywithBiloela

Find out more about the award here #RARUnsungHero #HometoBilo

 

Virtual 5th Birthday for Kopika
In support of Angela Fredericks, our Unsung Hero Award winner this month, we invite everyone to attend a virtual birthday party for Kopika, who is turning 5 on Tuesday.
 
Here’s the Facebook event with all the details

Join our Letter Writing Campaign to support the family

Nationwide Online: Call to Action

Free Priya, Nades and Their Girls! – Digital Rally

The Tamil Refugee Council organized a digital rally on Facebook on Saturday 2 May.  This was attended by 244 people across Australia.  Speakers highlighted the danger of the family returning to Sri Lanka, and the cruelty of the Government to keep this family in detention for over two years, with no end in sight.  RAR is appalled by the cost of this ongoing detention, as well as the hypocrisy of this Government in taking this action, at the same time it is urging refugees to live and work in our rural and regional communities.
Biloela wants this family!  This family wants to be there, to work, volunteer in the community and raise a family in safety.  Their two children were born in Australia.  It is the only life they know.
We call upon the Australian Government to show some sense and humanity and just let this family stay.  They have been punished enough, for asking for safety and refuge from a war-torn country, where they feared for their lives.  They have been denied due process.
We ask our member groups to encourage their members to keep up the calls and letter-writing to politicians and people of influence for this family.  We must not be discouraged but stay strong, like their friend and advocate, Angela Fredericks, has, for two years.
You can see a recording of this digital rally on the Tamil Refugee Council Facebook page.

RAR LAUNCHES ‘UNSUNG HEROES’ AWARD

2020 is a challenging year across the world – even more challenging than usual for refugees and people seeking asylum, and those who work to support and advocate for them. Rural Australians for Refugees recognize that we all need to stay strong and positive in these difficult times.

We want to take time this year to pay tribute to people in our community who have shown strength, courage and resilience in speaking out for, and helping in a practical way, refugees and people seeking asylum. There are hundreds of thousands of people who play a part every day – too many to name. These are often called  unsung heroes’. We cannot acknowledge everyone but it is worthwhile to give attention to just a few.

In May we are launching the Unsung Heroes Award. It is simply a way to profile some people and groups who are examples of how everyday Australians play a part in taking practical action to support refugees and people seeking asylum in rural and regional Australia.

We seek out people who:

  • have been actively involved in support or advocacy work for some time
  • work collaboratively with others
  • are well regarded by others in the refugee advocacy and support community
  • actively support and promote the work of RAR.

The person nominated needs to accept the award and be willing to be profiled in a public manner, with a photo. Anyone can nominate a person or group, who meet these criteria, by emailing .

The first Unsung Hero Award will be made in May 2020.

#RARUnsungHero