Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Community Campaign Trip South Coast

Following Refugee week (20-26 of June) staff and volunteers from the Amnesty International Australia NSW Community Campaigns section paid a visit to Ulladulla, Nowra, Kangaroo Valley and Kiama (29th of June-2nd of July). The main focus of the visit was AIA’s refugee campaign which urges the Australian Government to think again about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. We also wanted to give people living around the South Coast the opportunity to voice their concerns about human rights violations and take an active role in fighting for social justice.

On the first day, we visited Ulladulla to speak to local residents about human rights issues and raise awareness on the plight of asylum seekers coming to Australia. We had an interesting meeting with the St Vincent De Paul Society and the Sanctuary Refugee Foundation during an afternoon tea, where we learned about the resettlement of a refugee family in the area. We also paid a visit to year 9 and 11 of Ulladulla High School to talk to the students about how they can become involved in human rights activism. In the evening we gave a presentation at the Ulladulla Rotary Club Meeting, which created the opportunity for the Ulladulla Rotary members to ask questions and learn more about the actual facts on asylum seekers in Australia. We also deemed it important to show the human faces behind the headlines.

During our visit to Nowra we held a street stall where local residents were invited to sign our refugee petition calling for a more humane treatment of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. In the afternoon we spoke successfully at the Illawarra Multicultural Service Meeting, held at the East Nowra Community Centre, where we discussed further cooperation for future events in Nowra in September.

The next day we attended the Kangaroo Valley Remexio Community Meeting for afternoon tea. This group has a partnership with a village in East Timor, for which they organise fundraising events. They have also worked together with our Amnesty International Shoalhaven Action Group in the past.

On Friday we met with the Student Representative Council and the Social Justice Coordinator of Kiama High to talk about the various campaigns that Amnesty International Australia is involved in both nationally and internationally and the importance of fighting for human rights in local communities. We also held a street stall where Kiama residents could find out about how to become involved in human rights activism and take action by signing the petition.

In short, it was a very successful trip: we met with various local groups and schools with whom we might team up in the future, raised awareness among the general public, met Amnesty members, and learned about the general public opinion in this area on the current treatment refugees in Australia.

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