Newcastle refugee rights campaigning

Newcastle refugee rights campaigning

Newcastle Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy had a pretty steady year of actions.

We started 2016 by launching Ravi's poetry book "From Hell to Hell", and a year later he came back to host the inaugural "Food for Thought" event in Newcastle. It is a big hit in Perth (more about it below).

In February, we started weekly #LetThemStay actions outside Sharon Claydon's ALP office. This developed into the #BringThemHere protests. A few months later, a Newy Grandmothers Against Children In Detention started. Actions hovered pretty consistently at about 15 people, including Stephen and I, the 'Grannies', plus the Uniting Church and some Catholics, some Greens, Kerry (Socialist Alternative) and a varying number of others (Uni students, young, old, passers by). There has been lots of support from passing traffic - toots and waves - but rarely aggro. So that's good.

We have organised some big actions, too. For example, in August, mobilising about 400 people, and also some in depth stuff - we held two forums during Refugee Week (including Rod Bower from Gosford Anglican Church). Circus Avalon held a fundraiser for us. We screened Chasing Asylum which went well.

We're trying to develop more audio-visual presence, with signs, songs - with help from Gleny Rae (the Country and  Western singer in the SBS series, Go Back Where You Came From).

Some new organisers have appeared - notably Tim Buchanan, who used our office for the #CloseTheCamps projections, (he also was part of the glue on and following day actions recently in Canberra); other new organisers did quiz nights, the Grannies have done some stuff.

#CantStandBy - was called by Newcastle Greens Councillor Therese Doyle and inviting all groups to participate - it decided against blocking traffic - it was agreed it would only alienate people rather than win them over. I think 100 came to it and it will happen monthly.

The "Food for Thought" event that happened after the #CantStandBy action showed we're reaching new people - a lot of new faces there, including Joy from the Blue Mountains Refugee Support group, who came and explained more about the ban on mobile phones (See the campaign website: We've got to make a lot more noise about this.

Ravi spoke movingly, read some of his poems, and showed a short superb 10 minute film featuring Louise Newman (I interviewed Louise for GLW in about 2010). There will be more about that when the film is released. Ravi is a fantastic activist and networker - so if branches or local groups want to do a Food for Thought event, he'd be happy to help.

We also did a photo shoot to send to Nauru and Manus - WE Hear You. The photo has been posted here.

Follow the link for a snippet of the night, while people were lining up for supper - it's Kathy and Matthew Clark who often sing at #BringThemHere protests - singing a Christina Mimmocchi (Oz) song, "Let there be peace"-

We also had a fair amount of Op-Eds and letters published in the Newcastle Herald in 2016.

I haven't really looked back systematically, but in retrospect, it is good to see the range of stuff that's happened. I think the most encouraging thing is that actions seem to be getting bigger, and there seem to be more new people coming into the campaign.

Politically, the default position in discussions remains on the lack of compassion rather than how racism serves the ruling class.

Newcastle Branch