Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children – launch, 6 September 2014

Banner of Grandmothers against ...
A newly-formed group campaigning against the detention of asylum seeker children held a launch today on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children has grown out of a meeting of friends last April and now numbers over two hundred, according to Dr Gwenda Davey, one of the founders, who spoke today. (For more about the group, see the website.)

Crowd gathering outside St Paul's - banner reads Let's fully Welcome Refugees

Before the official start of the launch – note the banner on the wall of the cathedral.

From a media release for the event:

Hundreds of grandmothers from across Victoria will gather on Saturday to begin a campaign for the release of all the refugee and asylum seeker children incarcerated by the Australian government.

There will be speakers, music and highly visual protests against the plight of young children being held in indefinite detention.

These grandmothers are united in their horror at the heartless treatment and psychological damage inflicted on vulnerable, innocent children and are determined to take their campaign to every federal MP and even to the steps of Parliament House if necessary.

They are calling on all Australians to join with them in demanding the immediate release of all asylum seeker and refugee children in detention.

With their years of wisdom, compassion and determination, these grandmothers could well become the most formidable opponents of the heartless policies of the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison.

MC of the launch will be well-known actor, comedian and radio personality Denise Scott. Speakers will be Dr Gwenda Davey AM, coordinator of the Grandmothers initiative and Pamela Curr, Refugee Rights Advocate, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Speeches will be interspersed with songs from folk and blues singer Margret Roadknight.

The grandmothers will display 1000 paper dolls, representing the nearly 1000 children held in detention, including those held on Nauru and Christmas Island. The grandmothers will call on the Australian government to FREE THE CHILDREN.

And one thousand paper chains will be cut by the grandmothers, to the accompaniment of chanting and percussion instruments.

As mentioned in the media release, some of the grandmothers were linked by a black paper chain, the cutting of which marked the formal launch:

showing the paper chain

Others wore rows of the paper dolls that symbolised the nearly one thousand children currently in detention:
Banner of Grandmothers against ... Also showing the paper dolls

Apart from Dr Davey, whose account of the treatment endured by children in the camps brought tears to the eyes of many present, Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre focused on the contrast between the humane way asylum seekers arriving in Italy are treated with the brutality of Australia’s ‘welcome’. Folk and blues singer Margret Roadknight provided apposite music for the occasion, including one song by Indigenous Canadian singer/somgwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, and MC was another well known figure, Denise Scott.
Many of those present wore purple scarves, as can be seen in the accompanying photos, along with placards and mostly percussion instruments. At the end, following a photo op for the benefit of the Age photographer, there was what seemed to be an impromptu rendering of We Shall Overcome, perhaps in response to Pamela Curr’s earlier stirring call to action. Footage from the event was aired this evening in the main, 7pm, ABC news, and a camera crew from Channel Nine was also present, so it may have been covered there too. At time of writing nothing has appeared on the Age website.[Update 7 September - a report has been published in the Sunday Age. See here.]

More photos:

Dr Gwenda Davey

Dr Gwenda Davey

Denise Scott

Denise Scott

Margret Roadknight

Margret Roadknight

Pamela Curr

Pamela Curr

Placard showing photo of Hamid Kehasaei, who died that morning

By the stall of the Refugee Action Collective

More placards:

Placard with call for help

Placard addressing the Prime Minister - what if it was your child?

More placards

More placards

At the end - not quite the whole gathering

At the end – not quite the whole gathering

Group on steps singing We Shall Overcome

Impromptu choir

Bust the Budget Rally and March – 6 July 2014

Child with homemade placard - Save Peppa Pig

An extraordinary diversity of protests and protesters marked this, the third Bust the Budget rally in Melbourne. Asylum Seekers, the ABC, Unions, Climate Change, Medicare, Education … the list goes on. Also pronounced was the anger against Tony Abbott and resentment at his departures from pre-election statements and promises, as the selection below may indicate.Total numbers were hard to gauge – as The Age reports, figures from twelve to twenty thousand were being quoted – but they were at least comparable to the earlier protests, and that in spite of the weather and the timing (in the middle of the school holidays). Some idea of the overall size can be got, however, from the fact that the march up St Kilda Road from the rally location opposite the Arts Centre took just over twenty minutes to pass a single point (continuous video of this stage of the march is in preparation and should be available in the next day or so, by way of confirmation).[Video added 7 July.] Apart from the new starting point, the event took the traditional form: rally with speeches followed by a march through the CBD, ending at Parliament House with more speeches. These divisions are loosely followed in the photos below, but first a few overviews:
At the start -

Also at the start

Part of the rally

Another view

On the March -

Head of march coming up Bourke Street

March arriving at Parliament House

Final rally at Parliament House (the rain that had held off until now prompted a quick unfurling of brollies) -

Looking over head and brollies towards Parliament House

From the rally at Queen Victoria Gardens -

A selection of placards targeting Tony Abbott (some captured during the march)-

The March sets off –

Peppa Pig leads march up St Kilda Road

From the March (rather few, but see forthcoming video for full coverage) -

A few more from the end -

Woman sitting on kerb with dog

Resting at the end

Baby Boomers for Climate Change Action - placard spotted at Parliament House

Spotted at the end

Woman cradling small dog

Another dog getting a deserved rest

Walk for Justice for Refugees – Palm Sunday 13 April

Banner at head of march - Jusitice for Refugees

Growing community awareness of the reality of the current Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers has led to a revival of protest, with attendances at rallies not seen for years. Yesterday’s turnout in Melbourne was variously put at ‘as many as 3,000′ (ABC) to a rather extravagant ‘60,000 might be a conservative figure’ (post on the Walk for Justice Facebook page). Asked for my estimate by one of the organisers towards the end of the event I put the figure at ‘close to 10,000′, and there now seems to be fairly general agreement with this, at least on Facebook. Mainstream media, in so far as it reports the event at all, persists in putting it much lower. However that may be, it was an impressive demonstration.*

(The tag cloud doesn’t include items in the pre-2008 archive, so for anyone who might be interested or wants a reminder, here is a list of some earlier refugee rallies in Melbourne as reported here, including two on Palm Sunday:

2002
Rally and March for Refugees – 2 February
Rally for Refugees – Palm Sunday, 24 March
National Day of Action [for refugees] – 23 June
Tampa Day – Rally for Justice – 30 August

2003
World Refugee Day – 22 June

2004

Refugee Hope March – Palm Sunday, 4 April

World Refugee Day – 20 June
)

The format was conventional**: music to warm up, speakers, march, more speakers to wrap up. Music beforehand was provided by Celine Yap, aka Little Foot – folk, Kavisha Mazzella, and Victorian Trade Union Choir; other choirs were stationed at stages along the route of the march down Swanston Street to the gardens opposite the Arts Centre. Speakers included the Rev. Alistair McCrae, past president of the Uniting Church of Australia, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and three young asylum seekers, one of whom read a harrowing letter from a mother in detention… MC was Corinne Grant.

Views of the rally on the State Library lawns:

In the crowd at the State Library:

On the march:

At the end (we were not able to stay for the closing speeches, but left to the sound of Little Foot singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” …):

*Some media reports:

The Age

The Guardian
PressTV

** Though a new feature was the ringing of church bells following special services at the cathedrals and other churches – see the media release below:

City Church Bells to Ring out for Walkers on Palm Sunday

Across Australia in cities and regional towns Palm Sunday is being observed by Faith communities, Academics, School students and ordinary Australians who are deeply disturbed by the current treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

In Melbourne bells from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and St.Michael’s and St.Francis churches will ring out across the city as the WALK FOR JUSTICE FOR REFUGEES begins. The walk is organised by the Refugee Advocacy Network, working with a broad coalition of groups from across all ages, faiths and political persuasions.

Churchgoers from St. Paul’s, St. Patrick’s, Wesley Church and the Welsh Church will converge on the State Library to join the Walk. Church leaders, Professors and academics, Union leaders, School students, Community and Human Rights groups as well as politicians from the Greens and Labor parties will gather at the State Library. Choirs will serenade the walkers at the major intersections along Swanston Street.

Speaking on behalf of the Refugee Advocacy Network, Sister Brigid Arthur said: “We are walking for Justice for Refugees, because ‘stop the boats’ is not a policy worthy of Australia. It’s a cruel way of shirking our moral and legal obligations. People have a right to seek asylum in Australia regardless of how they travel here”.

Sister Brigid went on to say: “If we are genuinely concerned to stop people drowning at sea, then we must provide, safer ways for people to seek asylum in Australia. We must work closely with other countries not to stop the boats, but to protect vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution.”

Australians are calling for an end to the current policies. They are asking that we:

• Stop sending asylum seekers offshore and process claims for asylum here in Australia

• Close Australia’s detention centres

• Arrange for fair & speedy processing of Asylum Claims and Family Reunion

• Stop deporting people to places of danger

• Substantially increase our refugee quota

Walkers for Justice for Refugees will gather on Palm Sunday 13th April from 1.30pm for a 2.00 pm.
Start at the State Library, Cnr Swanston & La Trobe Streets Melbourne before setting off for Princes Bridge.

Contact Sister Brigid Arthur 0408101134
Marie Hapke 0409252673
Pamela Curr 0417517075

Close Manus Island – Rally for Refugees 1 March 2014

Overview of rally at State Library
[Note - this a stitched image and may show slight discrepancies at the seams]

As mentioned in the previous post, the Refugee Action Collective called a rally at the State Library today to protest at the treatment of asylum seekers, calling specifically for the closure of the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, but also an end to mandatory detention and an enquiry into the death of Reza Barati, as well as the resignation of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Attendance was probably not far short of 3000, enough to fill the lawns. Speakers included Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as well as former detainee Ali Bakhtiavandi and representatives of the Kurdish and Tamil communities. We shall leave others to report on the speeches and content ourselves with the following gallery of photos from the rally, plus a few from the ensuing march to Federation Square, which we were not able to follow to the end.
See the previous post for various links, including this one to the relevant Facebook page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/1398283463766506/

Ongoing Vigil for Asylum Seekers in Detention – Casselden Place 24 February – 25 March 2014

Protesters outside Department of Immigration Melbourne

In response to the murder of Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati in the detention centre on Manus Island last week a small group of protesters has established an ongoing vigil outside the Department of Immigration office at Casselden Place. While determined to maintain the action regardless, they would welcome support and ideally for others to join them. There is a Facebook page here.

Tomorrow, Saturday 1 March, a rally is planned at the State Library at 1pm – see notice here.

The Facebook page of the Refugee Action Collective-Victoria carries links to background material and continuing coverage.

Another view of the vigil

TELL RUDD, TELL ABBOTT – NO PNG ‘SOLUTION’ ’ – LET THE REFUGEES IN! – Rally and March, 24 August 2013

Part of crowd filling lawns at State Library
Between two and three thousand rallied at the State Library on Saturday 24 August (effectively this year’s Tampa Day, although as far as we could tell, no-one made this explicit) to reject and condemn the PNG “Solution” of Kevin Rudd and the even more extreme policies of the likely next Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. (The report by Socialist Alternative gives the figure on the march at “more than 2,000″ whereas news.com talks of “a few hundred protesters gathered outside the State Library”. Not all who attended the rally joined the march – ourselves included – so the discrepancy in these numbers is all the more marked. The accompanying images should give an idea at least of the extent to which the lawns in front of the library were occupied.)

Another view of the rally

Viewing the rally from the north

Placard exposing role of private companies Serco and G4S in detention centres
This speaks for itself; on a related note, two days earlier, a number of protesters from Beyond Borders entered the offices of Toll Group “to protest the company’s commercial involvement in the offshore processing of refugees and asylum seekers.” They released a statement and video of the action.

The Facebook event page for Saturday’s rally and march can be found here. As already mentioned, we were not able to follow the march, which was quite lengthy, so the photos below are from the rally only. Apart from the speakers, the focus is on the range of banners and placards, not forgetting of course the essential dogs:

Small dog rolling on its back on the grass before the rally
Large dog waiting at end of rally

Amanda from Refugee Action Collective was MC

Amanda from Refugee Action Collective was MC

Pamela Curr

Pamela Curr

Alex Bhathal of The Greens

Alex Bhathal of The Greens

Former Nauru detainee, Hazara Mohammad Ali Baqiri

Former Nauru detainee, Hazara Mohammad Ali Baqiri


Following the protest actions of 2-4 August an article appeared on the World Socialist Website which may be of interest for its critique of the position of especially The Greens and what it calls “the pseudo-left organisations, Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative”. (It should be noted, however, that this site is not affiliated to any group whatsoever – though it would be disingenuous to disavow a certain leaning …) The WSW site also carries details of the disturbing case of a public servant facing dismissal for privately posting comments critical of the government’s policies – http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/08/23/free-a23.html.

At time of writing there is no word of more rallies planned before the 7 September election, but two events were being circulated on Saturday: RAC (Vic) are holding a “Live Wire for Refugees” at Federation Square starting at noon on Saturday 31 August and ending at noon on Sunday 1 September – “a 24-hour non-stop community speakout for refugee rights” (details from livewireforrefugees@gmail.com), and the Refugee Advocacy Network have organised a forum “Is Australia in crisis? DO HUMAN RIGHTS MATTER?” at Kaleide theatre, RMIT on Monday 26 August at 6.30pm. Details at http://refugeeadvocacynetwork.org/human-rights-asylum-seekers-a-forum-monday-26-august-630pm/.

NOT IN OUR NAME – Rally for Refugee Rights – 2 August 2013

At the 5000-strong rally last Saturday it was decided to hold another protest within a week, and on Friday 2 August somewhere between 1500 and 2000 marched through the streets of Melbourne from Flinders Street station to the old City Square. And this in spite of miserable weather. The rally was organised by Socialist Alternative and RAAF (Renegade Activists Action Force), and supported and endorsed by a long list of organisations and individuals (see the Facebook event page). The opening rally was addressed by musician and activist Ezekiel Ox, Liz Walsh of the Refugee Action Collective, Hazara refugee Mohammad Ali Bagiri, Lea Rumwaropen of the West Papuan community, with contributions from Abe Ape and Muma Doesa, with Newdub Citysound and Trevor Grant of the Tamil Refugee Council winding up at the end of the march. MC overall was Jacob Grech of RAAF. With a starting time of 5.30pm and still some way to go to Spring the light was not too good, and naturally deteriorated as the march progressed, so that the footage of the final stages is rather on the grainy side, but hopefully gives some idea of the mood and size of the event:

Another rally is planned for the same time next Friday, 9 August, with a major event coming up on Saturday 24 August. Details will appear on the Rac-Vic website and Facebook page.

In addition to the footage posted here, which focuses chiefly on the march, there is excellent coverage biased towards the speakers posted on YouTube on the LeftAndcorrect channel – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeacJGdk8v4

The following mainstream media report may be of interest also: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/refugee-rally-disrupts-five-tram-services-in-city/story-fni0fit3-1226690421302