World Refugee Day – 19 June

From a media release by the Refugee Action Collective – Victoria, who were the main organisers of the rally:

Thousands of people around Australia will take to the streets this Sunday to send a powerful message to Canberra: a ‘change in culture’ will not fix Australia’s scandal-ridden immigration department; all on-shore and off-shore detention centres must be closed and all refugees must be granted permanent protection.
Organisers say the rallies will tap into a rising tide of public anger, bringing together those appalled by the cases of Cornelia Rau, Vivien Solon Alvarez, Peter Qasim and others, and refugee campaigners who have long argued such cases are an inevitable outcome of a system where the denial of basic human rights is institutionalised.
Victoria’s Refugee Action Collective, which is organising Melbourne’s rally, is expecting a large, colourful and noisy display of solidarity with refugees and asylum-seekers.
The rally will commence at 12 Noon, Sunday 19 June at the Melbourne Museum, Carlton Gardens (cnr Nicholson & Gertrude Streets). Hundreds of kites will be flown as symbols of hope and freedom; and as a reminder of the kites and balloons which were destroyed by police at the Baxter protest over Easter this year.
Protestors will march to join the Refugee & Asylum Seeker Festival organised by Multicultural Arts Victoria at the Fitzroy Town Hall.

Melbourne’s weather has unhelpful, though not as bad as forecast, and this surely had an impact on the numbers – The Age newspaper estimated about 600, though there was some falling off towards the end, as often. As last year, there were prominent banners indicating participants from far afield – notably East Gippsland. Plenty of balloons, but not many kites in evidence. But the mood was determined, and the speakers, who included two young Hazara Afghan refugees only just released after four years on Nauru, inspiring.

After speeches at the Museum the rally turned into a march to Fitzroy Town Hall via Gertrude, Brunswick and Johnston Streets, stopping on the way to hear from Yarra councillor Steve Jolly and two students from Preshil High School who had been involved in a successful protest the previous Friday at Melbourne’s own detention centre, at Maribyrnong.

There were more speakers at the Town Hall, where the festival was in full swing: a spokesperson for the Greens read messages from detainees, and Pamela Curr delivered a typically rousing finale.

At the museum – balloons were a feature of the rally; some escaped – or were released:

Part of the crowd at the start

Another view at start

Aladdin Sisalem, released last year from Manus Island: “Refugees are happy to have protection in Australia. I’m happy to have protection in Australia. But I’m not happy to be a refugee …”

Aladdin Sisalem speaking

Many of the refugees attending the rally have been helped by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:

Banner of ASRC

Friends of the Earth are currently working to raise awareness of the fact that climate change will inevitably create refugees, and most likely on a scale never seen before in human history – visit the FoE- melbourne website on http://www.foe.org.au/climate and see also the report of World Environment Day on this site:

FoE Environmental Refugees banner

The head of the march – Brunswick Street:
Banner leading march - Free the Refugees

And in Johnston Street:

The same

Several speakers referred to the shortcomings of the recent compromise between John Howard and Liberal ‘rebel’ Petro Georgiou – here was a graphic comment:

Puppets - John Howards leading Petro Georgiou by a string

Seen better in closeup:

Petro led by the nose

Students from Preshil High School: “This is our world; this is our future. We want our say. We will not grow old in a world that is full of injustice and barbaric crimes like mandatory detention. As divisions between rich and poor countries get bigger and as more countries get invaded by powerful … nations, the refugee crisis will only intensify. War creates refugees …”:

Two students from Preshil High School addressing the march

Yarra Councillor Steve Jolly – amongst other things, pledged support for the many East Timorese refugees now being told they no longer have any reason to stay in Australia:

Steve Jolly speaking from back of truck

Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (introduced my Gillian Davy, MC of the rally): ” … another year, and we’ll be back again next year until we see an end to mandatory detention, until we see an end to the Temporary Protection Visa system, until we see the justice and fairness that we want to see given to our friends …”

Pamela Curr speaking at the end of the march

Placard - Free the Refugees, End Mandatory Detention

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