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):

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN

Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:

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Youtube: unohchr




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)

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN

Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:

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Stop the Forced Closures of Aboriginal Communities – Rally and March, 1 May 2015

This event has been heavily reported already, especially on this FaceBook page:https://www.facebook.com/events/554444444695682/ so no more need be said here. This YouTube footage is posted chiefly to give a picture of the size and varied nature of the turnout. Its core is a seven-minute shot of the entirety of the march as it passed a vantage point on Swanston Street, this being bookended by footage of the initial rally, some shots of the march at other points as it made its way through the CBD, and finally some pan shots of the occupation of the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets.
See also https://www.facebook.com/WARcollective

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

World Refugee Day Rally – 16 June

Refugees are Welcome - banner of Refugee Advocacy Network

We were able to manage only a short stay at this year’s rally, and had to miss the annual march to the EMERGE Festival at Fitzroy Town Hall. Numbers at the rally were respectable but not large – one media report, on ninemsn, refers to ‘hundreds’; The Age says ‘1000’ – and there was a general feeling of disbelief that it should still be necessary to hold these protests now twelve years after the Tampa and under a Labor government at that. The Greens were well represented*, with Adam Bandt one of the speakers, along with Misha Coleman in her capacity also as executive officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, and Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (Facebook) was MC. Music beforehand and during the march was provided by The Conch, and Les Thomas sang a song written for ASIO victim Ranjini.
*Flags of the ANF were also visible, but otherwise not much in the way of union support.

A few photos from the rally outside the Melbourne Museum, mostly self-explanatory:

'Hope Boat' - No Crime to Seek Asylum
'Hope Boat ' - Let Them Come

Pamela Curr and Misha Coleman

Pamela Curr and Misha Coleman (at microphone)

Les Thomas singing

Les Thomas

Banner with message from refugees deemed a threat by ASIO

Socialist Party stall

Socialist Party stall – https://www.facebook.com/SocialistPartyAustralia. Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative members were also active at the rally.

Looking over part of the rally during the speeches

Banner of Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugees

Banner of Ballarat

Ballarat’s Circle of Friends / Australian Refugee Association – https://www.facebook.com/CircleOfFriendsBallarat

Dog in rainbow jacket

Also showing support

Speakout against gag on Lex Wotton – 20 July 2011

One year after Palm Island Indigenous leader Lex Wotton was released on parole two years into a six-year sentence for riot, the Indigenous Social Justice Association in Melbourne (ISJA)called a speakout to protest at the gag imposed on him as part of his parole conditions. Lead speaker was prominent criminal lawyer Rob Stary; others included musician Ezekiel Ox, Cheryl Kaulfuss from ISJA, and representatives of Radical Women, Anarchist Black Cross, Socialist Alliance and individuals declaring their support for for the campaign.

A slightly cut version of Rob Stary’s address has been posted on YouTube, along with extracts from the rest of the action, which culminated with a symbolic removal of gags from participants to chants of “You can’t gag the movement”.

The video also shows a police patrol which came past just as one speaker was finishing, and a young officer stopping to take a few copies of a “No Room for Racism” sticker from the table:

From ISJA:

Speak out for Lex Wotton’s Political Freedom!
Lift the unfair gag — let Lex speak!
Build the movement to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody

One year ago Lex Wotton was released from jail after serving two-years behind bars as a political prisoner. Lex got a 6-year sentence after being found guilty of riot with destruction by an all-white jury. He took part in a justified community protest against the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee. In contrast, Chris Hurley, the police officer responsible for the death in custody, has been promoted and compensated. The whole response to the 2004 death in custody has been scandalously flawed.

While Lex is free, he remains politically muzzled by harsh parole conditions, which deny him the right to speak to the media or to attend pubic meetings.

Lex Wotton is an inspirational advocate for the people of Palm Island whose voice is needed to expose the shameful truth behind the death of Mulrunji and everything that followed.

Attend the lunch time speak out outside the Bank of Queensland. Demand the Queensland Government lift the political gag on Lex Wotton now! Stop Aboriginal deaths in custody now!

Wednesday 20 July, 2011
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Outside the Bank of Queensland
163 Bourke Street Melbourne.
(Near the corner of Russell Street)

Organised by Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne
PO Box 308, Brunswick, Vic 3056


4 Years too Long – Stop the Intervention – Melbourne, 21 June 2011

The Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) organised a protest outside the office of FaHCSIA – the Department of Families, Health, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to mark the fourth anniversary of the NT Intervention. The rally was one of a series being held across the country – see http://indymedia.org.au/4-year-anniversary-end-the-nt-intervention-rally – and was addressed by a number of speakers from MAIC (including Jasmine Ali, who wound up proceedings but is unfortunately not captioned in the video) and others taking advantage of the open mic.

See also:





Anti-fascist counter rally – Federation Square, Melbourne, 15 May 2011

Unite Against Racism - banner at rally

There was loud and decisive rejection of the anti-Islamic message of a small group gathered in Melbourne’s Federation Square under the banner of the Australian Defence League. A counter rally called by the Renegade Activists Action Force (RAAF), and supported by people from all sectors of the community, unionists, Indigenous, socialists, anarchists, non-aligned, human rights supports, and many more effectively swamped the ADL action, eventually crowding them out of the Square under police escort – according to RAAF having first appealed for a guarantee of safe conduct.

The counter rally was addressed by several speakers refuting the ADL’s claims, including Dave Kerin, Kevin Bracken, Irish Socialist Kevin McLoughlin, Indigenous activist Sharon Firebrace, Mick Armstrong of Socialist Alternative, while others kept the megaphone busy at the front line. There was a gradual move to encircle the ADL position, and bit by bit move the centre of gravity, so to speak, back towards the street. There was a certain amount of pushing and shoving, but nothing to write home about, and no arrests, although police did drag a few people apart on occasion. It was all over after about an hour and a half, although a few individuals stayed around a bit longer, absorbed into the general public passing through the Square – which was also the scene of a colourful festival celebrating the birth of the Buddha.

Video footage of the event is in preparation.* In the meantime, here are photos of participants from both sides, mostly self-explanatory:

ADL supporter in 'Aussie' cap and blue t-shirt

The same, police line, and counter-demonstrators assembling behind

ADL supported with xxxx windcheater

Young woman poking her tongue out - placard reads Keep Freedom in Australia Save Aussie Culture

ADL supporters and placards objecting to Halal meat sales at Coles

ADL supported draped in Eureka flag

Elderly Asian gentleman shakes ADL supporter's hand ...

ADL leader poses for photo by supporter

ADL supporter in pseudo-hijab with anti-Islamic placard

ADL supported points camera at MelbourneProtests

ADL organiser

ADL speaker

ADL supporter pulls face, possibly for photo

Anti-Islamic placard appearing at end of rally - includes caption 'God Bless Hitler'

Anti-fascist banner - consigning swastika to dustbin

Anti-fascist placards including Freedom Socialist Party

Dave Kerin speaking

Kevin Bracken speaking

Sharon Firebrace speaking

Mick Armstrong speaking

Kevin McLoughlin speaking

Anti-Abbot t-shirt

The ADl rally becomes surrounded by the counter-rally

The counter-rally closing in on the ADL

After the ADL have left the Square - Indigenous and Palestinian flags

* Added 17 May: