Our monthly meetings are usually held at 2pm on the first Saturday of the month
at the Uniting Church, Rutledge St Queanbeyan. Due to the COVID19 social distancing laws, our meetings have been postponed indefinitely. Our group is in regular contact via email and phone.
In the meantime, advocacy groups around the country are focussed on the plight of those seeking asylum who are in detention centres, both onshore and offshore. We urge the government to release those in detention immediately. Crowded conditions, along with poor physical and mental health, makes these centres most vulnerable to the spread of a virus. This endangers detainees and the population at large. Others visiting our country on temporary visas are also at risk, with no financial or medical support available to them and no way of retuning home.
RARQ President, Gerry Gillespie, sent this letter to the Canberra Times on 6/4/20:
"The cruise ship Ruby Princess provides the perfect example of the need to prevent people being held in close proximity due to COVID 19.
Detention Centres throughout Australia must be closed. Based throughout the country they are the perfect breeding ground for the virus. They are serviced and staffed by outsiders who come and go with every shift, becoming the perfect vectors for the disease.
Even if we continue to ignore the issues of compassion, human rights, mental torture, physical abuse and our obligations as a signatory to UN Charters on unlawful imprisonment, holding people against their will in enclosed spaces without social distancing during a disease outbreak, makes no sense individually and threatens the health of the entire community.
We have now passed laws with heavy fines for people not respecting social distancing and space - we are flouting our own laws on public safety and health by keeping people in Detention Centres.
Close them now - these people can be safely held in the community at a fraction of the cost. They came to us for help - let us at least look like we are trying not to kill them?"
Monthly morning coffee at Riverside Plaza postponed
RARQ and friends usually meet once a month for a chat and a cuppa at the Riverside Plaza. This occurs on the first Friday after our regular meetings, which are usually held on the first Saturday of the month. It's our way of keeping in touch and letting people know that we're here. It's also an opportunity for those who are new to Queanbeyan, or who may just want to converse in English, to join us. We'll let you know when we are able to resume these get-togethers.
Queanbeyan Multicultural Festival Sunday March 1st 2020 - another great festival!
RARQ received a lot of exposure at this year's wonderful Queanbeyan Multicultural Festival. Our marquee was situated just inside the oval fence near the main stage and we had plenty of passers-by to contribute to our raffle and to become engaged in the multicultural sports activities introduced to the festival this year. Spectators watched demonstrations of African Wrestling and Cane Ball, with some joining in to give it a try. We hope our involvement with the sports program will grow and become part of RARQ's focus. Any local teams playing a sport from their country of origin are encouraged to contact us.
The RAR National Annual General Meeting was held in Queanbeyan on 27th July 2019. The meeting was followed by guest speakers and our annual RARQ fundraising dinner.
Above left: Our keynote speaker, David Manne, of Refugee Legal, gave an inspiring talk, giving an overview of Australia's treatment of those seeking asylum in recent years.
Top right: Kim Houghton, of the Regional Australia Institute, spoke of the positive effects for both new arrivals and regional communities when they move from cities to country areas.
Above right: Emmanuel Musoni, the patron of RAR, chair of the Great lakes Agency for Peace and Development.
Right: RARQ volunteers preparing food for the fundraiser dinner. Thanks to all who contributed time, food and money to the event.
Palm Sunday Rally, Canberra 14th April 2019
This year the numbers at the Palm Sunday rally were much bigger as the sense of frustration at government policy increases. RARQ had a good representation at the rally. The speakers were passionate and inspiring and included a speech via video from Berouze Boochani on Manus.
Canberra rally for children in detention
A large and vocal crowd attended the rally on the lawns of Parliament House, Canberra on October 16th, urging the government to release people held in detention - particularly children suffering on Nauru - into the community for immediate assistance and health care. Rural Australians for Refugees was well represented and organiser, RAR president, Marie Sellstrom, introduced the crowd to several impressive speakers. These included representatives of the local Ngunnuwal people, a doctor from Medicins Sans Frontiers who has just returned from Nauru, and others who had first-hand experience of the trauma experienced by those in detention. Shortis and Simpson sang a touching song written about children on Nauru and the crowd joined them in a rendition of We Shall Overcome. The urgency of the situation was the main focus of the rally which was attended by RSAR groups and other refugee support groups from far and wide.