Sunday, 27 July 2014

Not in my name Mr Morrison: compassion and public policy, a case study of Australia and asylum seekers

Dr Noel Preston is a member of Redlands for Refugees.  In his latest essay he makes an appeal to politicians to practise compassion. He describes the border protection measures taken as shameful and cruel.

Read his  article and add your comment on the link below

The purpose of this essay is to advance the view that, difficult though it may be, it is essential that moral principle and intention be kept at the forefront of the development and application of public policy. In particular, I want to examine the possibility of practicing politics with compassion. The catalyst for this essay is the current policy the Australian Government is implementing toward asylum seekers who seek refuge in Australia.
Minister Morrison and the Abbott Government, have been condemned by a wide range of eminent Australians and international human rights groups for their so called border protection measures. They are administering one of the most shameful and cruel public policies ever operated in the name of the Australian nation – perhaps rivaled only by aspects of government policies toward indigenous Australians in past eras. Regrettably, the present government's approach to the vexed human rights question of dealing with asylum seekers has been generally supported, to their shame, by the Opposition Labor Party.

he Case Study
The Minister's profession
(Archbishop) Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and one of the heroes of the struggle against South Africa' apartheid, reportedly once declared:
... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.
Why do I quote these words?
Because, in his maiden speech to the House of Representatives on Thursday February 14, 2008, Scott Morrison MP, currently Australia's Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, invoked these words as testimony to his personal beliefs and philosophy as a new member of parliament. He also cited Abraham Lincoln's wisdom, not to claim 'God is on our side' but to consider 'whether we are on God's side'. Well may we inquire which or what 'God'? But the discussion here does not rest on theology. Interestingly, Mr Morrison prefaced his use of the Tutu quote by making the commendable claim: "From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way.....". Altogether it was a speech which would have given hope to Morrison's small 'l' Liberal predecessor as Member for Cook, Bruce Baird, a campaigner for compassion in politics – who must now be deeply disappointed! That said, Scott Morrison is not the first Australian MP, wearing faith on his sleeve, who has been compromised by the poisoned chalice of the immigration of desperate asylum seekers. Kevin Rudd and Phillip Ruddock come to mind.

Given Mr Morrison's application of the Abbott Government's policies which condemn thousands with traumatic pasts to fearful and uncertain futures, one wonders how he now views the moral claims of his maiden speech. Rather than look to Archbishop Tutu for a confirming text, perhaps he might have consulted Machiavelli (the medieval chronicler of political ruthlessness). It is all but certain that Archbishop Tutu would line up with scores of Australian religious leaders who have strongly criticised Australia's approach to this difficult issue.
Of course, the case against Australia's treatment of those seeking refuge is not just a moral argument. The real politik case includes the following:
1. The current measures are not cost effective – for instance, the Commission of Audit Report issued just before the 2014 Budget estimated the annual cost of detaining a person in offshore centres such as Nauru at $400,000 per person whereas it is less than $100,000 to maintain an asylum seeker in the Australian community.
2. Australia is not fulfilling its international obligations, is damaging its relationships with neighbour Indonesia, and exaggerating the burden Australia faces with boat arrival numbers which, in the case of Mediterranean countries, are five or six times greater.
3. There are accountability issues: Australia's policy is being implemented with secrecy and has arrangements with nations where corruption of governance is a major question.
4. As for the case to smash the people smugglers' business, desperate people fleeing persecution have always used such devices, as did certain German Jews under Hitler.
5. Then we are told that many who seek asylum are "economic migrants". But surely those with means may also face persecution and the need for safe refuge.

The oxymoron of political ethics?
As a student of political ethics, I am not naïve about the inevitability of moral ambiguity in political practice. Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam correctly surmised: "Only the impotent are pure". My mentor of decades past, Reinhold Niebuhr, the American Christian ethicist, concluded that politics is "an area where conscience and power meet, where the ethical and coercive factors of human life will interpenetrate and work out their tentative and uneasy compromises". To Minister Morrison, and his colleagues, I freely concede that governing requires actions at times which are morally disagreeable.
The excellent Labor for Refugees publication, The Drownings Argument, launched in mid-July, outlines sound and instructive policy principles which are necessary to good refugee policy. The Introduction asserts that moral sentiment in public policy can be problematic. So it can. For instance, the treatment of the First Australians from the first British Governor, Arthur Phillip, onward has been littered with good, moral intentions which resulted in severely damaging outcomes. As with Aboriginal Australians, moral intentions in public policy are often nullified as compassion and charity become paternalism and pity. This observation is very pertinent to the argument used to defend the Australian policy of "stopping the boats". Briefly that argument is: by stopping the boats we have stopped "boat people" from drowning. Ipso facto, the policy is justified on the moral grounds that the lives of men, women and children have been saved. But that moral justification is both short-sighted and self-serving. It may result in people being pushed back to even more horrendous circumstances. Rather than a possible future where human rights are assured, they face a probable future where human rights are denied, whether that be in their country of origin, a transit country or in Australia's detention camps.

Moreover, the moral justification for preventing drownings cannot be held as a trump card over the consequential appalling treatment being meted out to those who have come here "via the back door" as a way of sending a message to prospective arrivals and smugglers. The claim that one compassionate good is achieved (stopping drownings) should not come at the cost other unjustified practices.
Politics is the art of the possible; but not of any possibility surely. Political practice that is morally defensible aims for the best possible outcome. The criteria for "the best possible" are various. In this case much is heard of "the national interest", a slippery criterion if ever there was, and surely subject to considerations of international and humanitarian responsibility. For a start, rather than merely following public opinion and feeding xenophobia, humanitarian leadership would challenge and inspire public opinion beyond a narrow view of "the national interest". In my view a justifiable policy has the character of "responsible utilitarianism". Our approach to ethics in public policy ought to reflect a sense of the common good, and responsiveness to the most disadvantaged. In this case, that involves social justice action for the human community beyond our borders.
The responsibility of citizenry in a democracy is to apply pressure to improve political performance; in this case to say emphatically in as many ways as we can "NOT IN MY NAME MR MORRISON – we have had enough – our reasons are multiple but, at the core they are fuelled by our disgust at how the Abbott Government and the previous Labor Government have thrown compassion out of the cabinet room". Of course, Australia alone cannot save the 45 million or more displaced persons in our world but, as a rich nation claiming that we are a culture of "the fair go", we can do a lot, lot better!
What place is there for compassion?
In his maiden speech the future Minister Morrison used the term "compassion" more than once, hardly a word one associates with the action of his government in returning Tamil asylum seekers to the Sri Lankan navy on the high seas or with the Manus Island riots which led to manslaughter in early 2014. My contention is that the virtue of compassion has a key role to play in public policy, in a hard headed sense, not in a "warm, fuzzy" sense. Moreover, it is fundamental to both the substance and demeanour of good political leadership.
But what is "compassion"?
Morrison links "compassion" to his religious faith. It is certainly a central characteristic of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, and also the Buddha. But it would be spurious to contend that being compassionate depends on following any religion. Compassion is the first among secular/sacred virtues. As such, it ought to be central to the communal life of our nation as a global citizen. According to The Charter of Compassion (, compassion is "born of our deep interdependence...essential to human relationships and a fulfilled humanity...indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community". Literally, from the Latin, "compassion" means "the act of suffering with". Its companion is "empathy". Compassion requires entering into another's reality with empathy, putting aside presumptions and waiting to hear the other's story. In public policy terms, compassion is the antidote to paternalism, public pity or narrow nationalism.
The United Nations' Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, are born of the international awareness of human suffering, and of compassion as the catalyst for humanity's global hopes – and we, Australia, to our shame are thumbing our collective nose at this aspiration, either by flouting the convention or regarding it in mean, minimalist terms.
Earlier I drew some parallel between Australia's current treatment of asylum seekers and that of Aboriginal Australians, particularly how moral sentiment can undermine policy intentions. This parallel question brings to mind a memorable speech by Prime Minister Keating in Redfern Park on International Human Rights Day 1992. It was delivered in the context of Australia's debate about legislation to follow the High Court Mabo decision – a matter of human rights and public reconciliation.

We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases, the alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice and our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask 'How would I feel if this were done to me?' As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.
Keating did not mention "compassion" or the "Golden Rule" as a marker for public policy but that is what he was talking about. The parallels and application to Australia's treatment of thousands of asylum seekers are all too obvious. Is the best that we can hope for that some future Prime Minister will apologetically name the truth that our policy toward asylum seekers in the early decades of the twenty-first century failed the compassion test? What if it were us who endured the mental and physical anxiety, trauma and cruelty typical of so many who have sought refuge in this land? What if we failed to see that what we are doing degrades all of us?
Appendix: compassionate policy alternative

have not provide a detailed critique of all aspects of Australia's policy. That is available in many other essays (for example, the Labor for Refugees' publication The Drownings Argument edited by Robin Rothfield, 2014). As for alternative policy suggestions, I do not envisage an 'open door' approach. However, in this Appendix I list a selection of substantial policy ideas which together would signal a more compassionate approach. Along with these, the language of political leadership needs to change. Mr Morrison, and the Jesuit trained Prime Minister and Opposition Leader need to revisit how they can move, in a bipartisan way, to a language of humanitarian compassion and social justice in this public policy. It is also worth saying that, along with the bad and sad stories, there is scope for Australians to hear (current or previous) good stories about refugee settlement in Australia.
Proposals for a substantial change in policy on asylum seekers, indicating that compassion and real politik can co-exist.
1. Australia's humanitarian refugee intake should be increased to 30,000 per year.
2. As part of regional co-operation, Australia should fund and help run an asylum seeker processing centre in Indonesia working with the UNHCR – this proposal has been advanced by Julian Burnside QC.
3. Immediate steps must be taken to clear the backlog of applications for protection visas along with building an Immigration and Border Protection Department culture that is more supportive to applicants.
4. The budget cuts to programs providing support in the community for asylum seekers and refugees should be reversed (for instance, to the Refugee Council of Australia and the legal support agency RAILS).
5.          Australian offshore detention centres must be phased out as soon as possible and the policy of denying those arriving by boat amended.
6.          The offer of the Uniting Church in Australia to government to house and support unaccompanied asylum seeking minors be implemented.
7.          As soon as possible, onshore detention be limited to special cases, while the fostering of community detention with visas allowing people to work should become the norm, supported by non-government local hospitality.
The policy not to allow family reunion for "boat people" should be reversed.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hello from Pastor David Busch

 Strategy Planning Meeting

A strategy meeting will take place at Trinity Uniting Church, 47 Marlborough St, Wellington Point on Tuesday 15 July 2014 at 7.00pm.

We are keen to identify some pathways ahead for our:

  • Hospitality days
  • Community education events
  • Prayer vigils and network
  • Advocacy
  • Practical support for refugees and asylum seekers
  • Organisation: meetings, working groups, promotion, etc
Depending on how many come, we will seek to use small groups to "hot house" ideas and time frames in these various areas, and then as a whole group agree on shape and priorities which will then be put as proposals to our next general meeting. Whether or not you can come, your ideas in advance by email are welcome. I will share these by email to us all on Sunday night.

Friday 11 July 2014: Forum on refugees and asylum seekers with the shadow minister  

If you are free come along to a Refugee and Immigration Forum with Richard Marles MP, Shadow MInister for Immigration and Border Protection, hosted by Graham Perrett MP, federal member for Moreton and Terri ButlerMP, federal member for Griffith. Speakers include Rebecca Lim (Romero Centre) and Louise Ryan (Labor for Refugees). The venue is Marymac Community Centre, 616 Ipswich Road, Annerley.

Ride for Refugees

One of our people, Liana Vasic, is participating in Brisbane's Ride for Refugees on 30 August 2014 and is inviting others to join in. Details are on the website or email Liana to join up with her:

 Speech from Leading Jurist 

Alastair NIcholson, former chief judge of the Family Court of Australia, has given a compelling speech on Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, called "My country, my shame." It's a metaphorical call to arms: "What then must we do? We must work together to show governments that this situation will not continue to be tolerated..... We must bring it home that the people that we are mistreating in this way are people like us....We must stand up to the Abbots, Morrisons and Shortens of this world." Click on the "My country, my shame" link to read the article which was published in The Age on 04 July 2014.

High Court Considers Tamil Asylum Seekers Case

The Australian Navy’s intercept and screening of two boatloads of Tamil asylum seekers is being challenged in the High Court. As that action was being proposed, leading barrister Ben Saul argued in that Australia had probably broken the law in its handling of the issue. His article is attached here as a PDF with a link to the source. Meanwhile, when the government did eventually confirm that the Australian Navy detained a boatload of asylum seekers before transferring them to the Sri Lankan navy for return to their country of origin, 53 international law scholars from 17 Australian universities signed a public statement expressing profound concern. That statement is here:

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Hi Redlands for Refugees folk,

Here are some reminders of things ahead in the next few days:


Our next hospitality day is Saturday, June 28.


·        R4R members Ella Tickle and Lyn Moore spoke about our group with broadcaster Phil Smith on 612ABC Radio last Saturday morning, as a lead-in to Refugee Week. Went very well. (Audio not on the ABC web site, regrettably.)
·        The Uniting Church in Victoria has produced a video reflection following the suicide of Tamil asylum seeker Leo Seemanpillai. It’s called Turn Back the Indifference.
·        The Jesuit e-magazine, Eureka Street, often has excellent analytical articles about the asylum seeker issue. The most recent is, “Why 71% of Australians want boats pushed back.” Worth a read.
·        Julian Burnside QC is one of Australia’s foremost human rights lawyers, passionate about asylum seeker and refugee rights. His web site won’t win any design awards, but the content is excellent and very current – worth visiting regularly. He is inviting Australians to write letters of encouragement and care to detainees at Nauru and Manus Island: details here.
·        It’s been around for a few months now, but the “What would you do?” video and Facebook campaign by Jewish Aid Australia is excellent, designed to put empathy into the asylum seeker ‘debate’. Your responses by text or video are invited.
·        One way to make a personal statement about your feelings on this issue is on the Sorry Asylum Seekers web site. It began in February 2014 to collect photos and notes from Australians opposed to current government policies and practices.
·        Some R4R members visit asylum seekers at the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) Centre. Let me know if you’re interested in visiting there, and I’ll send you the required forms and put you in touch with our folk who are involved so they can help you.
·        R4R member Tracey Huges has invited people who are in Wellington Point for the Hospitality Day on June 28 to stay on for a soup night with her church fellowship from 5:30 pm, at her place in, Wellington Point. For contact details email:
·        Some R4R members and I are meeting Lilly Matich, the Redland City Council’s new Community Development Officer, next Friday, to see how Redlands for Refugees might interact with Council and local community organisations. Will keep you posted.
·        One way to keep across this issue is to create a Google alert for “asylum seeker” and/or “refugee”. You can choose how often, and across what range of web sources, you’d like to receive a list of sites with new references to those terms. That list will be sent to your designated email address. It’s a great way to keep across breaking news, as well as mentions on blogs and sites that you wouldn’t usually come across.

Thanks very much for your interest and involvement. Hope to see you either at our Hospitality Day on Saturday, or our next social BBQ (date to be advised).
Pastor David Busch
Coordinator, Redlands for Refugees

R4R members attend World Refugee Day rally

The World Refugee Day rally and march started from King George Square on Saturday, June 21. A group of Redlands for  Refugees members attended the rally.. Here are some photos of the event.

World Refugee Day Festival 

The festival was held at Annerley Soccer Grounds,. Sunday, June 22.. There’ were a whole lot of stalls, food, activities, etc. It was a very colourful and engaging day.

A Movement of the Heart: 

Ecumenical prayer service for refugees 

The service was held at St Stephen’s Cathedral on Friday, June 20. The Cathedral was packed with people and the service was incredibly well organized and was appreciated by all.

Friday, 30 May 2014

May 15 Newsletter

Hi Redlands for Refugees folk,

We had a lively and interesting meeting last night – thanks to those who attended. Here’s a summary of key decisions and developments.


Regrettably, we’ve had to postpone our next Hospitality Day – complications in the availability of some key people meant we could not continue with Saturday, May 31. Sincere apologies to the 28 of you who had advised that you were able to help on that day. The new date is Saturday, June 28, and it will be at the lovely waterside Beth Boyd Park, at John St and Mooroondu Rd, Thorneside. This will be the first weekend of the school holidays, so we look forward to including families with children among the asylum seekers and hosts alike. I’ll start a new Host List for that day – please email me if you can come and help.


The meeting didn’t want to pass up the last weekend in May altogether, so we decided to have a social picnic for R4R people and their families and friends. This would help us get to know each other better, include people who can’t come to our meetings, and also give us a chance to check out the June 28 venue. It will be on Sunday, June 1, from 12 noon, at Beth Boyd Park. Please bring food for your lunch plus something to share. There are BBQs. Seats and/or blankets would also be good. No RSVP – just turn up if you can.


We decided on a film and discussion format, perhaps with a small component of live music. This will be held on Friday, June 13, 6:30 for a 7:00 pm start. Venue is to be confirmed but we’re hoping for Mary MacKillop Catholic Church hall, 12 Hardy Rd, Birkdale (just down the road from Trinity UC). We propose to screen the film, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and Rebecca Lim from Romero Centre has kindly agreed to take questions in the discussion afterwards. The event will conclude with supper. We will email you with a notice and flyer and put a piece in the Bayside Bulletin once the venue is confirmed. It would be great to have a strong turnout from R4R folk, and be encouraged to invite your friends and family. Details of the film are here: . I have ordered a copy of the DVD for R4R to keep as a resource – if you can’t make the screening, you can borrow it!


·        Romero is hosting a Refugee Conference and Film Festival, State Library of Qld (South Bank), on Friday, June 6, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. A second day on Saturday, June 7, will be a family day of activities and workshops showcasing cultural diversity. Contact the Romero Centre for details: 3013 0100.
·        The annual Lantern Parade for Refugees will be held at South Bank on Friday evening, June 6(which is also Queensland Day). Gather near the Wheel of Brisbane from 5:00 pm. This includes a procession along the River Walk, ending with a concert at the Courier-Mail Piazza.
·        Refugee Week this year runs from June 15-21. The national web site is here:
·        A rally for refugees and asylum seekers is being held in Brisbane city on Saturday, June 21. A planning meeting tonight will continue the planning. More details to be advised.
·        An ecumenical prayer service for World Refugee Day will be held on Friday, June 20, 6:00 for 6:30 pm, at St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral, Elizabeth St, City. (They are basing this service on what we did for our prayer vigil on April 11!)

David Busch

Friday, 25 April 2014

Forthcoming Activities and Meeting


Our next hospitality day is Saturday, 31 May 2014. Hospitality days are organised and hosted by members of Redlands for Refugees and are not public events as such. If you’re a member of Redlands for Refugees, please respond to the emails seeking confirmation of people’s availability. If you’re not a member of Redlands for Refugees but interested in being part of our hospitality team, please email David Busch.


Tuesday, May 13, 5:00 pm at Trinity Uniting Church, 47 Marlborough Rd, Wellington Point. A key item for discussion will be the May 31 hospitality day, so if you’re planning to come to that day it would be great if you could make this meeting. Rebecca Lim from Romero will be there too (emergent crises permitting).


Following up an idea raised at Tuesday’s meeting, we have been able to confirm that Frederika Steen and Rebecca Lim will be available to lead a special session on effective advocacy (e.g., writing letters to politicians, etc). Freddie and Rebecca are seasoned campaigners and will bring great tips, stories and resources. This will form the second part of our May 13 meeting – starting around 6:15 pm. If you’re keen to learn more about strategies and techniques to advocate on asylum seeker issues, please come to this session. It means our whole meeting might finish around 7:15 pm.


Refugee Week runs 15-21 June 2014. Our meeting on Tuesday was keen to know what was planned.

  • The annual lantern parade for refugees at South Bank will be on Friday evening, June 6. This is a large, colourful and inspiring event, and it would be great for R4R to have a visible presence there. Details TBC, but usually it starts about 6:00 pm from in front of the Cultural Centre.
  • Romero is running its annual Refugee Week Film Festival on Friday-Saturday, June 6-7, at the State Library of Qld. The Friday will include a conference  panel session and film screenings; then adjourn to the Lantern Parade. The Saturday is a family day hosted by the Stater Library for Romero.
  • The Refugee Action Collective is planning a Refugee Week rally – tentative date is Saturday, June 21.
These dates will help us to plan our community education event in June – the thought was we’d hold an event in mid-June which could also encourage interested people to participate in a city-wide event.

Monday, 14 April 2014


Group members gather with their placards under the
 Redlands for Refugees banner in King George Square, 
Brisbane, on 12 April 2014.
About 10 members of Redlands for Refugees participated in Brisbane’s rally and march for refugee and asylum seeker rights on Saturday, 12 April 2014.

It was the first time the R4R group participated as a body under its own banner at a public event of this kind.

Group members held placards which had been used at the prayer vigil for asylum seekers the previous night. These placards had a Christian theme, with quotes from the Bible and from statements of concern made by Australian church leaders and agencies.

The Redlands for Refugees banner was prominent in the
 march through Brisbane city streets.
The rally, organised by the Refugee Action Collective, drew over 500 people from a wide range of groups, who gathered for an hour of speeches in King George Square before a march through city streets. Two speakers at the rally, Rev. Dr Peter Catt and Rev. Kaye Ronalds, had spoken at R4R’s prayer vigil the night before.

The Brisbane event was the first in a weekend of rallies and marches for refugee rights in cities across Australia.

David Busch


The value, quality and dignity of human life needs to be the central consideration in thinking about responses to asylum seekers.

 Uniting Church Queensland moderator, Rev. Kaye Ronalds,
speaks at the prayer vigil.
Pastor Jim de Witte of the Redlands Christian Reformed Church in Ormiston said this in opening the prayer vigil for asylum seekers, organised by Redlands for Refugees and held at his church last Friday night, 11 April 2014.

More than 100 people from across the Redlands and further afield attended the vigil.

Speakers included church leaders and two asylum seekers, with music from members of the refugee choir, Scattered People.

Participants lit candles of remembrance and hope, and wrote messages of encouragement for asylum seekers on cardboard hands which were placed inside a small boat.

Pastor de Witte said the vigil sought to offer a place where people could connect with the human faces and stories of asylum seekers, in the context of the Christian and humanitarian principles of dignity, compassion, respect, welcome and valuing of life.

Some members of the Scattered People choir, 
performing at the prayer vigil
Tamil priest Fr Pancras Jordan spoke about the situations of violence and oppression around the world which forced many to flee their homelands; the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Very. Rev. Dr Peter Catt, who chairs the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, spoke about the need for truthful language and a focus on human and moral rather than political considerations; and Uniting Church (Qld) moderator, Rev. Kaye Ronalds, referred to biblical injunctions to care for widows and orphans and welcome the stranger, and gave many examples of people and communities responding with practical compassion to asylum seekers.

    David Busch

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


Redlands4Refugees organise a prayer vigil
A prayer vigil for asylum seekers is being held on Friday, April 11, from 7:00 pm at the Redlands Christian Reformed Church, cnr Sturgeon and Delancey Sts, Ormiston. Key participants will include the Uniting Church (Qld) Moderator, Rev. Kaye Ronalds; Anglican dean Peter Catt who chairs the Australian Churches Refugees Taskforce; Tamil Dominican priest Fr Pancras Jordan of Pax Christi; and the Scattered People refugee choir. The vigil is organised by Redlands for Refugees, a non-political church and community group based at Trinity Uniting Church, Wellington Point, which aims to offer hospitality and support to asylum seekers and refugees in the community. The one-hour vigil will focus on prayers for countries in conflict and turmoil, asylum seekers and refugees fleeing their homelands, the complex domestic and international challenges which this creates, and the overarching need for asylum seekers to be treated with dignity, care and support consistent with their human rights and with Christian values. All are welcome. Supper will follow, and there will be opportunity to register interest in being part of the Redlands for Refugees group. Further details: Uniting Church pastor David Busch, 0438 646 559, or Reformed Church pastor Jim de Witte, 3286 4700.

Monday, 31 March 2014


Typical Redlands park area. Refugees play soccer.. Redlands4Refugees
Asylum seekers play soccer under the
 Moreton Bay figs at the Wellington Point reserve.
Article by David Busch
for the Bayside Bulletin

More than 50 asylum seekers living in Brisbane and Logan have enjoyed recreation and hospitality at Wellington Point in the past two months, thanks to a group of Redland citizens.

The Redlands for Refugees group, formed last October at Trinity Uniting Church, Wellington Point, comprises about 30 locals keen to offer friendship and support to community-based asylum seekers.

With no refugee or asylum seeker services in Redland City, the group linked up with the Romero Centre, an asylum-seeker support agency in Dutton Park run by the Sisters of Mercy.

“One thing we felt we could offer was hospitality and recreation, where asylum seekers could come and enjoy the beauty and lifestyle of the Redlands in a friendly, supportive environment,” group member, Lyn Moore, said.

“This would not only give asylum seekers a rare opportunity to enjoy a day in a part of the Brisbane area they wouldn’t usually be able to come to, but it also enabled people in the Redlands to meet asylum seekers, hear their stories, and begin to discern what other help we could offer.”
Redlands4Refugees members with refugees.
Asylum seekers from Brisbane and Logan enjoy 
swimming at Wellington Point with their 
local hosts in red shirts.
The Romero Centre embraced the proposal, and two days have been held – on January 24 and March 21 – at the Wellington Point reserve, involving asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

“We provide bus transport to and from the Romero Centre, and we’ve had wonderful times of fishing, swimming, walking to King Island, playing cricket and soccer, and sharing food and conversation,” Lyn said.

The coordinator, Uniting Church pastor David Busch, said the group was non-political but believed that people seeking asylum should be treated with dignity, care and support.

“Many people in the community are concerned at Australia’s policies and practices with regards to asylum seekers,” he said. “The human dimension is often overlooked in the political slogans and strategies.

“Redlands for Refugees seeks to offer a practical, compassionate and local response that makes a difference to the lives of people who are experiencing such hardship.”

Rebecca Lim, community engagement coordinator with the Romero Centre, said feedback from the asylum seekers had been overwhelmingly positive. The Centre looked forward to more days, and offering the experience to a wider circle of asylum seekers.

Redlands for Refugees is also organising a public prayer vigil for asylum seekers at the Redlands Christian Reformed Church, corner Sturgeon and Delancey Sts, Ormiston, on Friday, April 11 at 7:00 pm.
Redlands4Refugees members man barbecue ib the Redlands
Redlands for Refugees members Peter Bore and
Doug Moore cook sausages for asylum seekers at
Wellington Point

Participants will include the Uniting Church state moderator, Rev. Kaye Ronalds; Anglican Dean Peter Catt, chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce; Tamil priest Fr Pancras Jordan; and the Scattered People refugee choir.