Who We Are

About 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 and rural groups supporting and advocating for refugees and people seeking asylum.

RAR in 2020

  • Aims to raise public awareness of the issues involving people seeking refuge and asylum
  • Writes letters to newspapers and politicians
  • Meets Members of Parliament to challenge inhumane policies
  • Provides practical help to people seeking refuge and asylum in our local community
  • Fundraises for people seeking refuge and asylum
  •  Provides emotional and practical support for refugees and people seeking asylum (this includes: assistance with English, filling in forms, dealing with Centrelink, driving lessons, and many more)
  • Attends rallies and vigils
  • Provides home hosting for people seeking refuge and asylum.

Our achievements in 2019 – 2020 are presented in our 2020 RAR Annual Report

Join us

We invite you to consider how you might work with us:

  • Join one of the RAR support groups.  There are many RAR groups, community groups, church groups working to improve the lives of people seeking refuge and asylum
  • Engage in Fundraising,  Awareness- raising, and/or  Advocacy
  • If there is no group near you, consider starting one or contact RAR for advice
  • Visit Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Detention Centres
  • Become involved in the ‘Home Hosting Program’
  • Letter Writing – to Politicians – MPs Addresses   Senators Addresses
  • Visit our Facebook Page – Rural Australians for Refugees

Start a new RAR Group

Don’t see a group near you? Or want to have your Asylum Seeker or Refugee Support group listed on our website? You need two people to meet, agree on a name for the group, set some objectives, agree on who will convene your group and who will be treasurer. Feel free to get some ideas from this website. Fill out a Membership Form and send details to RAR Admin –

Click to read:

Our 10 Point Plan

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.

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 context … 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.

Our Patrons

Julian Burnside – Australian barrister

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 again to be an Honourary Patron for RAR in 2019. In his most recent book, Watching Out: reflections on justice and injustice, the treatment of asylum-seekers and the hate mail he has received for his defence of refugees are among the contentious subjects he deals with.

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.”

Emmanuel MusoniGreat Lakes Agency for Peace and Development International (GLAPDI)

Emmanuel is the chair of GLAPDI, a community organisation founded in 2012 in Sydney. Emmanuel has been engaged in community development for many years, in Australia and overseas. Emmanuel’s work has enlightened and changed perceptions towards refugees within the Australian population and brought new debate into State and Federal politics.

Emmanuel was raised in a refugee camp in Uganda until he was 16 years old. This has led him to be strongly committed and passionate about advocating for better settlement and integration of refugees and migrants who are yearning to call rural and regional Australia home. As a result of having more than 200 families expressing interest in moving to country towns, Emmanuel began a campaign of visiting rural communities to talk about the benefits of regional resettlement for communities and refugees; and about strategies for welcoming and retaining migrants in regional areas and guiding research efforts in this field. Since 2016 he has visited more than 35 regional communities in Qld, NSW, Vic and WA. Emmanuel has settled around 133 people in regional areas since mid-2016. Based on this experience, Emmanuel has developed a community-based national toolkit – STEPS TO SETTLEMENT SUCCESS: A toolkit for Rural and Regional communities – to guidefuture regional migration initiatives.

The RAR National Committee 2020/21

  • Louise Redmond, President – Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group
  • Jonathan Strauss, Secretary – Cairns for Refugees
  • Geoff Byrne, Treasurer – RAR Southern Highlands
  • Kat Vella, Communication Coordinator – RAR Griffith
  • Marie Sellstrom, Committee Member – RAR Mansfield
  • Paul Dalzell, Committee Member – RAR Alexandra
  • David Millikan, Committee Member – Stop the Shame, Shoalhaven
  • Stephen Maud – Committee member – RAR Grampians-Gariwerd
  • Katherine Stewart – Committee member – RAR Warrnambool

President – Louise Redmond

Louise has a strong commitment to changing the current Government policies and social attitudes towards refugees and people seeking asylum.

Louise says: “I believe that grassroots groups like the membership of RAR have great capacity to influence policy and attitudes. It’s the capacity to influence at the local level which is our greatest strength.”

Louise is a member of BMRSG – the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group.

Secretary – Jonathan Strauss

Jonathan says: “The recent election result confirms the importance of RAR’s campaigning, organising and advocacy. We can meet the need, and fulfil the opportunities, to advance refugee rights, working together with the other refugee sector organisations and all supporters of refugee.”

Jonathan is a member of Cairns for Refugees

Treasurer- Geoff Byrne

Geoff joined the Committee in March 2021. Geoff is a member of RAR Southern Highlands, NSW



Communications Convenor – Kat Vella

Kat joined the Committee in March 2021. Geoff is a member of RAR Southern Highlands, NSW

Kat is a member of  RAR Griffith, NSW.


Committee member – 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, and is a member of RAR Mansfield.

Marie is a Past President of National RAR

Committee member – Rev Paul Dalzell

Paul joined the Committee in September 2020,  He is a member of RAR Alexandra, Vic.


Committee member – Rev. David Millikan

David joined the Committee in March 2021.  He is a member of Stop the Shame, Shoalhaven  NSW


Committee member – Stephen Maud

Stephen joined the Committee in March 2021.  He is a member of RAR Grampians-Gariwerd Vic.


Committee member – Katherine Stewart

Katherine joined the Committee in March 2021.  She is a member of RAR Warrnambool, Vic.


Welcome Scroll Coordinator – Jan Govett

The Welcome Scroll is a joint initiative of:
Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR)
Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)
Refugee Welcome Zone Councils (RWZs)

The Welcome Scroll is a national project.

For information visit the website: Welcome Scroll
Mobile: 0417 313 037

  • National RAR Website is managed by Linda McNeill (Castlemaine RAR), and Peter Sobey (Bellingen RAR). Pro-bono support is provided by Cornerstone Digital.
  • RAR Representative on the ARAN – Australian Refugee Action Network 2019-2020 Committee is Louise Redmond (BMRSG)

History of RAR

Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) was launched in the NSW Southern Highlands in 2001 with a public meeting in Bowral with Armidale in NSW and Aireys Inlet in Victoria following shortly after. 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  other states and has grown steadily with a resurgence in activity over the last six years.

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

There are thousands of people in rural Australia, ordinary people, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, whose concern has led them into becoming involved and taking action, many of them for the first time in their lives.

RAR Reborn in 2014

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 people living in rural and regional Australia are working together to re-invigorate RAR.

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.

For information about Rural Australians for Refugees please contact: