I recently made a trip to Canberra and Sydney to engage in various networking activities, and I have complied a brief report.
On Friday 19th May I attended the Refugee Council of Australia's Movement Strategic Planning Day. This was an inspiring meeting of multiple groups, including Amnesty International, UNHCR, MSF, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, GetUp, Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children, and several other groups, community leaders and individuals who have been through immigration detention in various countries.
The aim of the day was to discuss the collective direction/goals of groups working to help refugees and asylum seekers in the Australian system.
In Particular, 5 areas were discussed:
1. Offshore Processing
2. Asylum processes
3. The detention system
4. Australia's Refugee Program
5. Australia's engagement in Asia
In terms of individuals in the Australian detention system, a major concern at present is that the USA deal appears certain to leave hundreds of offshore refugees/asylum seekers unaccounted for.
We also discussed how time is best spent when dealing with the public, pitching our views to the most appropriate audiences.
Words That Work is a fascinating project conducted by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.
ASRC's research has established the importance of choosing the right words when persuading fellow Australians that we need to change our national approach to refugees and asylum seekers.
Please take a look that their work by clicking here.
This table gives a guide to some basic changes in language which are very helpful:
On Saturday 20th February I attended the inaugral meeting of the Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN). ARAN will be a network to co-ordinate and synchronise action, rather than a joining of organisations. The identity of existing groups will be maintained.
Members of the network will be able to share resources (such as ideas, fact sheets, website links) with each other, and support each other. We heard inspirational speeches from Pamela Curr, Ian Rintoul and Zaki Haidari.
We also heard a pre-recorded message of thanks and encouragement from Behrouz Bouchani on Manus Island.
There was discussion around the success of the #LETTHEMSTAY campaign, the decentralisation of this movement, and the variety of groups which were involved.
There was also acknowledgment that grass roots movements are often driven by individual cases, such as the Baby Asha vigil in Brisbane.
I presented in a workshop on Activism Within and Across Constituencies. This was facilitated by Dr Niko Leka, and a number of issues were discussed, with a focus on how Doctors For Refugees can continue working with the medical profession and the AMA to continue striving for better medical treatment of people seeking asylum.
It was an honour to be invited to attend and participate in the conference, and truly inspiring to see how many motivated and talented people are working alongside us to improve the lives of people seeking asylum.
On Monday 22nd May, I was fortunate to meet with Dr Barri Phatarfod, Dr Igal Augarten and members of Amnesty International and Medecins Sans Frontieres in Sydney, to discuss how Doctors For Refugees can continue to co-operate and work with these fantastic organisations.