Canberra rally for refugees – you’ll never regret working on this issue

The speakers at the Canberra rally for refugee rights today were all excellent, informative and constructive. I’ve added some notes of particular points that the rally applauded.
Alex White, Secretary of Unions ACT reminded us of the relevance of the fundamental principle of unionism – Solidarity – an injury to one is an injury to all. Unions ACT stand against unethical inhumane treatment of refugees which is stain on Australia. (Applause )
Diana Rahman from Australian Muslim Voice emphasised the importance of her non-sectarian work with Canberra Multicultural Community Forum. She told of when her home in Lebanon was amongst buildings being bombed, and how she lay on the floor protecting her daughter for several nights in fear of bombs landing inside. When she spoke of how refugees are not just an anonymous grouping, they are individuals, human beings with dreams and hopes, I couldn’t help thinking of the hypocrisy of the architects of Australia’s anti-refugee program, the people who claim to be for individual liberty and against its alleged suppression by socialism.
I’m pretty sure that it was Moya Simpson and John Shortis who performed an impressive and moving piece.
Tobias Gunn was greeted with big cheers for his bravery in defying the Border Force Act and speaking of his experience working on Nauru for Sae the Children. When he told of going to help a hurt child, who told him her name was UB183 – her boat number, the crowd cried “Shame”. Children who suffer a breakdown are recognisable, not because they receive extra care, but because two guards follow them to intercept attempts at self-harm. One night Tobias heard the unusual sound of laughter, then saw a security guard chasing a 4 year old child. The guard knocked the child to the ground because, Tobias discovered, she had teased him. Despite Toby and another witness offering their evidence, the guard’s employer Wilson security (also a major car park operator in Canberra) said there insufficient evidence to take action against the perpetrator. Tobias says he and another workers can provide the evidence. Tobias concluded that “We need to demand from both parties, Labor and Liberal, to stop using this topic for pathetic point scoring, to do what they have lost sight of, their job, to lead.” (Applause)
Another child protection worker recorded a message for the rally. She felt more fearful of the consequences of being known to defy the Border Force Act.
Jane has been a child protection worker 8 years but one year on Nauru is her heaviest burden. She told heart breaking stories of systematic abuse.
John Minns spoke for the Refugee Action Coalition. I’m summarising his whole argument. Australia’s policy is designed to deter with cruelty. All Canberra MPs have voted for it. Hungary’s razor wire wall has been condemned. Australia has also been condemned. What would Australia’s policy look like in Europe? It would be a crime against humanity and an outrage of historic proportions. What are the concerns of people with reservations about ending the anti-refugee policy? RAC is not calling for open borders but to do our share and allow people to claim asylum. Some people fear more drownings on the way if boats come. An example of a child drowning was used by Tony Bourke at ALP conference. But asylum seekers have scraped all that they have together to save their children. Would they risk lives of children if there were any other way? The problem is that we did not provide a safe alternative for them to seek asylum. (Very loud applause). Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s were assessed in refugee camps in Asia and then arrived at Kingsford Smith and Tullamarine airports. Turnbull of all people knows that if there is demand then there is market, and if not a safe and proper way to migrate, then there is a black market. If we spent a fraction of the detention budget we could help refugees. Two thirds of the Australian detention budget is total of the UNHCR budget for world (I think I heard this correctly). Turnbull knows about markets. Anti Muslim demonstrations represent a contest for soul of the country. I will never regret any involvement in this campaign, neither will you. Do all you can. We can climb the mountain and win.

I feel more motivated after this rally, and so do the friends I came with. Congratulations to Canberra RAC.


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