Let Them Stay! – Rally against returning refugees to Nauru – 4 February 2016.

Following the High Court’s ruling that off-shore detention on Nauru was legal, protests erupted around Australia, including one called at 24 hours’ notice at the State Library in Melbourne:



For once this and other rallies received considerable traditional media attention, in addition to the extensive coverage on social platforms. First stop would be the event’s Facebook page, but there were reports also in The Age and on the ABC (focused on Sydney), for example. As always, accounts of the numbers present varied, but at its peak, a figure of around five thousand seemed reasonable. For such short notice it was a remarkable achievement.

At the of this post will be found a Media Release from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, along with some recent statements from the UN regarding Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. One of the speakers at the rally was Alex Bhathal of The Greens, and the following links are from her Facebook page:


Part 2 of this article can be found here: http://junkee.com/72869/72869

The other main speakers were Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Mohammad Ali Baqiri, former detainee on Nauru; Michele O’Neil of the TCFUA; and Colin Long of the NTEU.

The rally began with speakers at the State Library, followed by a march down Swanston Street to Bourke Street, then along Bourke Street as far as the intersection with Exhibition Street, which was occupied for a time (Liberal Party Headquarters are just north of this point), then continuing up to Spring Street and so on to the Department of Immigration at Casselden Place, where there was a further sit-down. The arrangement of the photos following reflects these stages:

At the State Library –










On the march:



The first sit-down:




More on the march:




At Casselden Place:







MEDIA RELEASE – 4TH February, 2016


Brisbane’s St John’s Anglican Cathedral, amongst others, has been declared a place of sanctuary for asylum seekers facing deportation after yesterday’s High Court decision which allowed for their imminent removal to Nauru.
Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt says he is declaring the church as a sanctuary, given the trauma and abuse these asylum seekers face if deported.

“The High Court’s decision means 267 people including 37 babies face imminent removal to Nauru.  They could be issued notices at any time and ordered to leave Australia within 72 hours,” said Dr Catt.

“This is a hugely significant action for any Australian church to take.  Historically churches have afforded sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.

“We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse,” said the Very Rev’d Dr Catt.

“This fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us”.

“It is an extraordinary step.  It is a step that will attract the attention of church communities around the world.

“The ancient principle of sanctuary goes back to The Old Testament, and was enshrined in English Common Law.  Where a state is causing grievous harm, churches can provide sanctuary and immunity from arrest by authorities.  The legality of Sanctuary has never been tested under Australian law, nevertheless we are determined to apply its moral precepts and protect the most vulnerable from certain harm.”

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer for the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said that “Cathedrals that have offered to protect asylum seekers from deportation to a place where people face, rape, sexual assault, and unimaginable conditions, include: St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, St George’s Cathedral Perth, St David’s Cathedral Hobart and Christchurch Cathedral Darwin.

She also said that “many priests and vicars of local churches who feel compelled to provide the moral leadership that their position requires, have also offered Sanctuary. These include: St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church; Darlington, WA; Perth Wesley Uniting Church; Gosford Anglican Church; Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide; St. John’s Uniting Church Essendon; Paddington Anglican Church, Pitt Street Uniting Church and the Wayside Chapel in Sydney. Many other churches have offered to support the Sanctuaries in various ways”.

A press conference will be held on Thursday 4th February at 10.30am with The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane.

Media spokespeople:

The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt, Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: 0404 052 494
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: 0428 399 739

Misha Coleman | Executive Officer (Wed, Thurs, Fri)
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
Telephone 0428 399 739 | Email info@acrt.com.au
Follow us on Facebook | Join us on Twitter | Visit our website

John Ball
International Programs Co-ordinator, Act for Peace
jball@actforpeace.org.au | T +613 96506811 | M +61412528514  F +613 96508383  Skype: john.ball4
Level 4, 306 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC  3000, Australia


Best interests of the child must come first, UN child rights committee reminds Australia

GENEVA (3 February  2016) – The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has reminded the Australian authorities that, under the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a party,  the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when taking any decision concerning children.

The Committee was reacting to the decision by the Australian High Court that the government’s policy of detaining asylum seekers offshore is legal, thereby clearing the way for more than 260 people currently in Australia, including dozens of children and infants, to be deported to an immigration processing centre in Nauru.

“The Committee had already expressed its concern in 2012 when it reviewed Australia at ‘the inadequate understanding and application of the principle of the best interests of the child in asylum-seeking, refugee and/or immigration detention situations’,”* said Committee Chair Benyam Mezmur. “This decision by the High Court greatly concerns us as these children and their families face a great risk in being sent to a place that cannot be considered safe nor adequate.”

Among those who could face deportation are reportedly 54 children, as well as 37 babies who were born in Australia.

Article 3 (1) of the Convention states:  “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”


*Committee on the Rights of the Child review findings on Australia 2012 – see paragraph 31


For more information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell  +41 (0) 22 917 9466 / +41 79 752 0488


The Committee on the Rights of the Child:

Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified to date by 196 States):

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Comment by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, on the possible transfer of 267 people from Australia to Nauru

GENEVA (3 February 2016) – We are very concerned about the situation of the 267 people, including up to 80 children, at risk of being transferred from Australia to Nauru following the High Court’s decision delivered this morning in Canberra.

Central to the decision was a retrospective amendment to the Migration Act which was passed by the Australian Parliament shortly after the case was initiated and which validated the offshore processing of asylum seekers. We are concerned that
this amendment, as well as broader aspects of Australia’s policy on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers arriving without prior authorisation, significantly contravenes the letter and spirit of international human rights law.

Most of these people were reportedly brought to Australia from Nauru to receive medical treatment and are in a fragile physical and mental state. The group includes more than 12 women and at least one child who have allegedly suffered sexual assault or harassment while in Nauru. The group also includes 37 children born in Australia.

We believe that transferring these 267 individuals to Nauru could further damage their physical and mental health, and would put Australia at risk of breaching its obligation not to return any person to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the Convention against Torture. Moreover, sending these children to Nauru could contravene Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We remind Australia that children, regardless of their legal status, have the right to be treated as children first and foremost, and urge Australia to ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child
takes precedence over migration management or administrative considerations.

While we appreciate Australia’s efforts to upgrade medical facilities in Nauru, the country is still not equipped to respond to the needs of severely traumatized individuals, including children. In addition, there are inadequate systems for child protection, education or social welfare in place. Several independent inquiries, including the 2014 Philip Moss inquiry and the 2015 Senate inquiry, have found that Nauru is neither a safe nor an appropriate environment to send  people in situations of vulnerability to, in particular children.

We therefore urge the Australian Government to refrain from transferring all concerned individuals to Nauru.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 /rcolville@ohchr.org)or Cécile

Pouilly(+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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People’s Climate March, Melbourne – 21 September 2014 – photos only.


Melbourne led the way on a grand scale with an estimated turnout of 30,000 marchers. The event began at the State Library with music, dancing and speakers, including a welcome to country. The march down Swanston Street to the Treasury Gardens via Bourke Street seemed to go on for ever… More speakers and music at the gardens, as well as stalls representing a range of organisations. Reports have appeared on SBS and The Age. We are not in a position to add to these so this post must be restricted to photos, grouped under the rally, the march, and the end (though speeches and other activities were still in full swing when we left, about 1pm).

At the State Library:

On the march:

At the end:

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

Bust the Budget II – 12 June 2014.

Bust the Budget banner leads march

The surge of protest that followed the May budget is far from subsiding, and it seems our plan to retire may be on hold for a while longer – which would no doubt gladden Tony Abbott in the unlikely event of his ever getting to know of it. This time it was the unions that took to the streets in Melbourne – construction workers, teachers, nurses, plumbers, firefighters, ambos, postal workers, public servants, students and individuals – and in numbers hardly less than the general rally in May. (Various media reports – see links below – quote a figure from Trades Hall of twenty thousand.) At both the assembly point outside Trades Hall, and again at the end of the march, outside Parliament House, it was next to impossible to get close enough to hear the speakers, and there will be no attempt here to report what was said (again, see reports linked to below). The photos here should be pretty much self-explanatory and only a few are captioned. Some video is in preparation and will be posted shortly.*

Some media reports that have appeared so far:

The Age

The Herald Sun

Channel Seven news



No Dump at Muckaty! – Traditional Owners at Federal Court in Melbourne 2 June 2014

Kylie and Dianne

Traditional Owners Dianne Stokes and Kylie Sambo were in Melbourne today for the start of hearings of a challenge to the nomination of Muckaty Station as sit of a dump for nuclear waste. See Beyond Nuclear Initiative for background and continuing updates, including Kylie Sambo’s video blog from the court. A small number of supporters were on hand with a banner and placards:

Kylie Sambo with supporters

Supporters with banner - Don't Waste the Territory ...

Campainger with placard - Australia stands with Muckaty

Appropriately, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were raised outside the Court while this was going on:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at full mast

(although there was no breeze to display them better).

See also this Facebook page for a public meeting to be held on Thursday 5 June to discuss the case and future directions for the campaign against the waste dump.

March for Medicare – 30 May 2014

Something upwards of two thousand people of all ages assembled at the State Library to hear a succession of speakers condemn the Coalition Government’s attack on Medicare in its recent budget, before marching through the CBD to Federation Square. Jacob Grech, one of the organisers and a former member of Defend and Extend Medicare at the time of the Howard Government’s attempts to dismantle universal health care in Australia (see reports from the time here and here), recalled that the Federal Health Minister at that time was a certain Tony Abbott, and Catherine King, opposition spokesperson for health also commented that “[every] time the Liberals get into office, they try to destroy Medicare and this is the latest attack …”
The march down Swanston Street was timed for peak hour on a Friday, and the abnormally large police presence was possibly a reflection of safety concerns rather than an attempt to intimidate, although a post on the event Facebook page had reminded those planning to attend “that the Move on Laws (Summary Offences Amendments) were enacted several days ago”. Not that these amendments should impede lawful protest … Mainstream media covered the event, for example this report on the ABC – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-30/thousands-rally-against-medicare-co-payment-plan-in-melbourne/5490836, but the most detailed reports are on YouTube – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvNbnVYcw5o, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyBbZ-VHpTE, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu0eallhyt8 – all by LeftAndCorrect. The two clips posted here are intended to fill a gap, in the case of the speech by Catherine King, and extend coverage of the march itself.

One detail may need amplification: at the rally there was mention of the announcement by the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service that they would refuse to charge the new $7 co-payment. This met with huge applause. See also http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/health-service-facing-budget-blackhole-by-not-charging-copayment–20140527-zrpb7.html and http://indymedia.org.au/2014/05/22/wgar-news-this-budget-could-devastate-indigenous-australians-mick-gooda-abc-the-drum.

Catherine King’s speech:

From the rally and march:

Bust the Budget – Rally and March in Melbourne, 18 May 2014

[Updated 21 May]
View over pat of crowd at State Library

Though called at only a few days’ notice, Melbourne’s rally and march in protest at the Coalition Government’s first budget attracted numbers rivalling the March in March: organisers claimed ten thousand during the initial rally rising to twenty-five thousand by the end at Federation Square. (Rallies in other cities were also large scale, for example ten thousand in Sydney and six thousand in Adelaide according to the ABC.) The format was traditional: speakers at the State Library, march down Swanston Street (though a departure from custom was the splitting up of the march at Bourke Street, with part continuing directly to Federation Square and part making a detour via the Mall and Elizabeth Street and back to Swanston via Collins Street) and final speakers at Federation Square. (For more information on the event, see the Facebook page).

At the State Library

Warm-up music was provided by Celine Yap. The list of speakers was a long one, here and again at Federation Square, and was increased by an unscheduled ‘intervention’ on the part of Indigenous activist and broadcaster Vivian Malo. Among those who spoke at the library were: Karen Pickering, feminist and organiser of Slutwalk Melbourne; Yorta Yorta man Jason Tamiru; ACTU President Ged Kearney (see also http://www.actu.org.au/Media/Mediareleases/AbbottGovernmenttearsapartAustralianwayoflife.aspx); Shaun Murray, Coal spokesperson with Friends of the Earth; Mohammad Ali Baqiri, a refugee who spent three years in detention (see http://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/a-second-chance-the-stories-of-fawad-ahmed-and-mohammad-ali-baqiri/); and Adam Bandt, Greens MHR for seat of Melbourne. MC was RRR presenter Richard Watts.

Others have posted video of some of these speeches on YouTube, for example:

Vivian Malo by Sean Bedlam – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB8gY7WiDJY

Adam Bandt – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WW4MsgdTp8&list=UUExNRjztVKtVu1CNzPpIFCQ

Celine Yap singing

Celine Yap with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind”

Mohammad Ali Baqiri

Mohammad Ali Baqiri

 Karen Pickering

Karen Pickering

Adam Bandt speaking

Adam Bandt

Vivian Malo in front of Aboriginal flag

Vivian Malo

Jason Tamiru speaking

Jason Tamiru – “We’re at the bottom of the stack in this country”

Shaun Murray

Shaun Murray

Ged Kearney

Ged Kearney

On the march

Aboriginal flag leading march

Marching down Swanston Street

Senior citizen with placard demanding Abbott reurn his 'self-awarded bonus'

This marcher attracted much attention from photographers

Woman in shorts and placard with caption ' Abbott can kiss my perky lesbian ass'

As did this one

Musicians at the old City Centre

Busking against the Budget

(See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnZtyOLTSuk)

Woman in climate action t-shirt hold leads of two dogs

Plenty of dogs on the march

Woman cradling dog

Even if some had to be carried

woman holding baby with mini-placard reading "Wah!!!"

As did some of the younger protesters

Young woman with placard of variant of classic "First they came for ..."

Bringing up the rear

At Federation Square

By the time marchers had assembled at Federation Square organisers felt able to announce a revised attendance figure of twenty-five thousand. Here there were more speakers, with Father Bob Maguire his usual self prominent in a list that included disability activist Jax Jacki Brown and NUS Education Officer Sarah Garnham, Operations Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Samantha Castro, Danae Bosler of Public Transport Not Traffic, broadcaster, writer, media maker and festival director Marcus Westbury, and Tamika Hicks, ALP candidate for Rowville. Rounding everything off was activist singer/songwriter Les Thomas, with a song specially written for occasion – caught here on YouTube.
Danae Bosler’s speech has also been posted to YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf-JCjlEGNo and Tamika Hicks’ can be found here.

Jax Jacki Brown speaking from wheelchair

Disability activist and spoken word performer Jax Jacki Brown

Sarah Garnham speaking

NUS Education Officer Sarah Garnham

Father Bob pointing with his walking stick

Father Bob Maguire

(Father Bob amongst other things used the view over the river to the Eureka building to make a point he has made before about the symbolism of the gold panels at the top of the tower and the blood-red ribbon flowing down from them. See for example at 7min 30 in this video from the eve of the 2007 Federal Election – http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/pc/videos/23nov-eureka-engagemedia.avi)