Free speech in Brisbane by the Refugee Action Collective



“I have been involved with the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) for eight years. RAC is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit campaign group that seeks to change government policy to free refugees from detention and allow them to be given permanent residency in Australia. Over the last few years as we’ve organised protests in the city, the Brisbane City Council has made it increasingly difficult for us to book and organise peaceful assemblies.

Late last year, protests erupted inside the Manus Island detention centre by refugees, as the authorities attempted to force them into another camp. Their heroic actions sparked protests throughout Australia, demanding their freedom, and RAC in Queensland organised weekly protests in the month of November.

On one such protest, I led a march of several hundred people into Queen street mall where we chanted and held speeches. While the mall is public space, Brisbane City Council have severely restricted public use of the space, with a set of local laws that allow them to lay heavy fines against any number of activities in the mall. While no participants were fined during the protest, two months later I received a $630 fine for using a megaphone on the night via mail. We launched a fundraiser for the fine and within 28 hours had raised all the funds we needed! We’ve also begun a campaign for free speech in Brisbane, please sign here to help our cause:

As the late British politician Tony Benn put it, “The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it.” And while the condition of many of us in Australia pales in comparison to the hell that our Government has created for refugees inside the camps, it is the same political parties that have pursued anti-refugee policies at a federal level that have also restricted our rights to free speech and assembly in Brisbane.

Our struggle for refugee rights in this country is also the struggle for all our rights, and when we have, together with our refugee brothers and sisters inside the camps, shut down those centres and when they’re brought to Australia for immediate settlement, then our community will be all the better for it.”
Tim Arnot

For more about this awesome cause, check out Tim and the Refugee Action Collective’s crowdfunding campaign to protect free speech below:



Helping Ruban walk again, by Shira



“I am a volunteer refugee advocate and writer. While I had long wanted to help refugees and asylum seekers, I wasn’t really sure how to get effectively involved — apart from having several articles published — and with the responsibility of a young family, didn’t think I had the time.

Everything changed in 2016 when I joined Supporting Asylum Seekers Sydney (SASS): I decided to devote an afternoon each week, going out to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, as part of a group of volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life, to share food and speak with the asylum seekers detained there. All of a sudden, I was actually meeting the people about whom I had been reading for so long.

While emotionally confronting, it has been so rewarding to become involved — listening to their stories and providing support whenever I can. I am proud to call many of the asylum seekers and refugees I meet my friends, learning about their cultures and experiences. As individuals, we may be powerless to determine their fate, but we can treat our fellows with dignity, no matter their circumstances.

I have tried to find them lawyers, supported detainees in court when necessary, helped them with paperwork and with navigating our health system, and generally advocated for their rights.

For the past 18 months, I have also been supporting Vietnamese failed asylum seeker families, forcibly returned by Australia, several of whom have been punished in Vietnam. Last year, 18 of them, including 12 children, tried to flee Vietnam for Australia again, only for their boat to sink off the Indonesian coast. Rescued by Indonesian authorities, they have since been found to be refugees by the UNHCR and have just been released from Indonesian detention. We are currently advocating for a third country to resettle them. You can read more about their situation on my website or join our Facebook page.

While I have run several crowdfunding campaigns for the Vietnamese families, this is the first time I have run a campaign for an asylum seeker who experienced Australian detention before being returned to his country of origin. If it hadn’t been for his treatment in Australia, Ruban would not be in his current harsh situation, and so I believe I have a responsibility to help literally to get him back on his feet so that he can try to support his young family once more.”

Check out Shira’s crowdfunding campaign for Ruban below:

Click here to read more of Shira’s writing on her blog! 

Keeping the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre Alive

Muzafar, Khadim and Jolyon
“I was living in Indonesia and had made friends with two Hazara refugees, Muzafar Ali and Khadim Ali. They told me that, against official advice, they wanted to start a school for the refugee children, so my wife and I helped to pay the rent on a small space. The school was called the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre (CRLC) and was an instant success. It had 55 students in the first week and 35 on the waiting list after two. We quickly realised that we needed a bigger space and more money so we started building a coalition of Australian supporters.

My wife and I moved back to Australia and luckily Muzafar was resettled there too, so together we started an Australian registered non-profit organisation, Cisarua Learning Limited. We continued to build our community and attracted many supporters who bring educational materials, teaching support and friendship to the refugees. The school has now been running for over three years, it has nearly 200 student and 18 volunteers teachers. There are at least 7 other refugee schools in Indonesia who have followed the CRLC model.

Some of the teachers and students have been resettled in third countries, where the students have moved directly into their age appropriate classes and two of our teachers are already halfway though teaching degrees. The school receives hundreds of visitors every year and, as much as it is a space the the refugees to learn and teach, it is also a space for outsiders and Australians to learn about refugees

The CRLC is a place of community, connection, resilience, learning and hope. It has changed the lives of everyone who has been involved, not the least mine, and we are committed to supporting it for as long as it’s needed.

Muzafar, Khadim and myself have made a film about our journey called, The Staging Post. That film is currently screening around Australia and Indonesia. Learn more about it here!
Jolyon Hoff

For more on this inspirational cause, check out their crowdfunding campaign below:

Filming for the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre

Brighton Syrian Musicians: Vinyl Record & Community Support

The Syrian All Stars

The Syrian All Stars

“Best Foot Music is a UK based ‘non profit’ organisation, working with musicians and communities who have come to live here, from elsewhere in the World.

Our work includes making music recordings, organising events and supporting artists in whichever creative projects they wish to pursue. We aim to challenge negative stories around migration and support diversity in the community.

The first people we started recording with were from Poland, living in Brighton and London. Over the years we’ve become good friends.

Initially, we just made music recordings, but then realised we needed to give something back to the people we worked with. Many wanted us to help them with promotions and organising gigs. Often those who have only recently arrived in the UK, do not have access to the networks and resources available to those long established in the UK music industry.

I get really excited every time the musicians we work with performing at a concert. Music genuinely helps break down social barriers and is a great way to bring people together.

The war in Syria has resulted in many people having to leave the country, some of who have settled in Sussex. Many have arrived with only a few belongings, and need support. The Sussex Syrian Community Group was set up by people from the local Syrian community, and the Hardship fund is administered by the community. It pays for English lessons, day to day support and social events, which help people build friendships and community networks.

We’re excited about the record for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will enable people to support the community and show support for those people who have sort refuge in the UK.

Secondly, we hope the record will form an enriching and permanent document of some of the musical cultures that people bring to life in the UK, wherever they travel from and under whatever circumstances.”

Learn more about the awesome Best Foot Music cause on their crowdfunding campaign page and video below!

Help Emma unlock young refugees’ potential with Unicef UK

Emma Sinclair

Emma Sinclair

“My name is Emma Sinclair. I’m a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of alumni software company EnterpriseAlumni.

I spend a great deal of my time fielding questions from people about their careers and business: how to get ahead, how to secure a promotion, how to move industries. My best piece of advice is that it doesn’t always need to be all about the career ladder you’re currently on. In fact, on the contrary, my advice is it may be far more valuable to get a side gig.

My various side gigs have done many things for me. They’ve given me an increasingly powerful voice at many tables, from media to business and government. They’ve exposed me to people, places and experiences I might otherwise never have met. They have given me rich life experiences that make me a better employer, friend, corporate citizen and colleague. And hopefully they’ve encouraged other people I know to get a side gig too.

It was in pursuing one of these side gigs that I was able to visit Zambia with Unicef in September 2014 to front a programme providing financial, enterprise and employability skills to young people in communities where opportunities are limited. This visit made me a better, more informed person on youth unemployment and, more broadly, how to assist young people seeking a better future through access to opportunity. More than one billion adolescents stand at the crossroads between childhood and adulthood, 200 million of whom are in Africa, where they are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. And I saw that first hand.

Following this experience, I wanted to find a way to bring my tribe of entrepreneurs, innovators and business people together to invest in and support a particularly at risk next generation of thinkers and innovators. Two weeks ago I launched Unicef Uk’s first crowd fund to roll out Innovation Labs in Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan. 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes and face unimaginable hardships. Many have lost their family, their friends, their chance to go to school – a privilege most of us enjoyed. The roll out of these Innovation Labs, which this crowd fund is seeking to fund, will give young people support, seed funding and training in highly-sought-after digital skills, including coding and engineering.

It is in this way that I hope my own side gig will not only enrich my experiences but can help unlock the potential of younger generations of entrepreneurs.”

To learn more about Emma and join her in unlocking the potential of these vulnerable young people, check out her crowdfunding campaign page below:

Compassion Over Cruelty by the NSW Alliance For People Seeking Asylum

NSW Alliance Team

NSW Alliance For People Seeking Aslyum Team

“The NSW Alliance For People Seeking Asylum is a group of four NSW based service providers working with people seeking asylum and refugees. The alliance has been working together over the last year to ensure services are coordinated to deliver the most effective response to people in need.

The four organisations include: the House of Welcome, the Asylum Seekers Centre, Jesuit Refugee Service and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service.

The Alliance has launched a campaign to raise funds to ensure people affected by the recent Australian Government decision to remove the safe housing and living allowance from 100 people who have been held on Manus Island and Nauru and who are now living in the Australian community.

To date, in NSW, there are 20 people who have already had their living allowance removed and have never been given the right to work until right now. They were given 21 days to find a safe place to sleep and a job to support themselves, with no assistance.

In Victoria, the state government has pledged to support those affected. But, in NSW, this support is being left to be provided by these already stretched charity services.

The NSW Alliance for People Seeking Asylum – our combined 90 staff and 703 volunteers – are committed to ensuring that people have their basic needs met. But we need financial assistance to do this.

It will cost $93,000 to meet the immediate needs of the first 20 people affected for the next 6 months.

Your support will help provide:

  • legal assistance
  • casework
  • safe housing
  • basic food rations
  • uncovered medical expenses
  • a basic weekly living allowance.

We will work with our specialist volunteers in the medical, dental and legal fields to ensure each person affected receives specialist pro bono support.

Our initial target is to cover the first 20 people in NSW who are affected, but we hold grave fears for an additional 300 people in family groups living in Australia who are at the Federal Government’s whim, and are likely to need the same assistance very soon.

Thank you for your support – any thing goes a long way.”

Learn more about the NSW Alliance for People Seeking Asylum and how you can support their much needed work on their crowdfunding campaign page:

Open your hearts and support solidarity visits to Immigration Detention

Open Hearts by SDS

“My attention was first drawn to the issues surrounding immigration detention in the UK when I started at SOAS University in London. A lot of my course was about globalisation, migration and how crucial the movement of people is for our society to flourish. I soon got involved with SOAS Detainee Support Group to learn more about these issues, and how to challenge detention as an immigration control mechanism. I was disgusted to learn that 30,000 people are locked up in immigration detention every year. They are held indefinitely, with no time limit and without the opportunity to trial.

SDS have been working together for 12 years, and in that time have engaged so many people to take a stand against detaining people who have a precarious migration status. The state of immigration detention centres is appalling; they are built to prison standards, and run by private security firms, which is not only wrong but also really expensive for the taxpayer.

I think what is really telling about this subject is that when something like the BBC Panorama documentary comes to light, the general public are shown the brutality of the system and how these people are berated, bullied and demoralised. The problem is that people don’t know how they can take action against this abuse. This is where SDS comes in; they offer support to people in detention, regular visits, and emotional and practical support. Along with helping people in detention in the here and now, the group campaigns for the abolition of detention, run workshops around the UK on immigration detention and protests at detention centres and the Home Office.

For anyone who feels they don’t know enough about this issue, want more information, or feel they have the capacity to start visiting someone detained in one of the UK’s immigration removal centres, I would urge getting in touch with SDS.”
Mia Barrow-Sullivan, SDS Member

For more on SDS and this fantastic cause, check out their crowdfunding campaign:



Help Vicki Help the Asylum Seekers that Dutton Aims to Starve Out

“18 months ago I went to Tom Ballard’s comedy show ‘Boundless Plains to Share’ and at the end of the show he handed out a brochure detailing what you could do to help Asylum Seekers in Australia.

I had previously attended rallies and donated to campaigns but wanted to do something more and his brochure suggesting visiting Asylum Seekers detained at MITA (Detention Centre in Melbourne).

I have been visiting at least once a week since then and have witnessed the devastation of detention and then the hardships associated with Community Detention. My friends from MITA on Community Detention are my chosen family and to see them suffer and face destitution because of the ‘Final Departure Bridging Visa E’ breaks my heart.

The monies raised from this campaign will go directly to our friends from MITA to pay for medication, credit and essential items.

My friends want the chance to live the life they deserve, a life filled with joy and freedom.

This crowdfunding campaign with is aimed at removing part of the burden that has been forced upon them.”

Find out more about this important cause and how you can support it on Vicki’s campaign page below:

Helping Deported Sanjay to Start Again


“I started this campaign the moment my friend Sanjay told me that his dreams of safety and freedom in Australia were over.

We met 2 years ago when I decided I wanted to do more about the way Australia was treating asylum seekers and accepted an invitation to MITA, one of Melbourne’s two immigration detention centres.

When I got there (only 20 minutes’ drive from Brunswick) I couldn’t understand the high security fences, uniformed guards and complicated rules when I was visiting people who had committed no crime and were seeking Australia’s protection.

Sanjay – who had already been several years in detention – welcomed me warmly, made me some tea and introduced me to all his friends. The contrast with the high-security environment was enormous!

Visiting soon became a weekly event and my sons joined me to keep company with 3 brothers (aged 13, 11 and 10) who were detained there with their mum. We had found a community of friends in a place where human rights were routinely denied.

Two years down the track, many of these friends feel like family, and the visiting community has been gutted to hear that Sanjay must return to Sri Lanka.

One of his friends summed it up perfectly when she posted on social media, ‘Completely heartbroken… Australia has rejected one of my dearest friends application to seek asylum. HOW are we allowed to take so many years from a person to then tell them “no”?….

‘(Sanjay) you wonderful human … Thank you for changing my life. Your friendship and your story have driven my everlasting passion and need to support all people seeking asylum in this country. I am so sorry we have taken so many years from you.’

This response was echoed through our loose community of friends and advocates. We couldn’t overturn the decision but we needed to do something to help.

When I finally got Sanjay on the phone, he kept saying ‘I have no idea about my life’.

That seeded the idea. What if we could create some certainty, at least in terms of finding a home and accessing health care? Money was never going to replace freedom and safety, but it could make life a bit easier.

We agree to crowdfund through Chuffed and Sanjay’s mate Tom Ballard came on board to give us a boost. Tom also put his money where his mouth was, and recruited family members who have also given generously.

We’re rapt that our campaign has kicked off so strongly, and will give Sanjay the last word: ‘Thank you so so much…. I have no words to say for your very big help, I really, really appreciate it’.”

Head to Janet’s crowdfunding campaign page to learn more about Sanjay and how you can support his cause:

Success Story: Gifts for Manus & Nauru

Anne Moon

Anne Moon

“My involvement with people on Manus & Nauru began a couple of years ago when I became aware of the letter writing campaign by Julian Burnside and decided to make contact with a couple of detainees on Manus island. I also was able to get some inside scoop from a friend over dinner, she was a case manager at one of the islands and would work for 2-3 weeks at a time and then come home for a week. She recounted how the centre was run, how the men battled through the days, and how downright dismal the place was. She was only able to do so much in her role.

One time she came to me with the story of a man who just needed someone to talk to. I wrote him a letter – I had his ID and full name – and discovered in our correspondence that he loved reading. Next, I sent him an e-reader loaded with books, which he was able to collect from the postal service in the main compound.

This was the beginning. Handwritten letters to make the individuals stuck in the centre feel connected to the outside; letting them know not everyone in Australia agreed with what the Government was doing. I also sent small parcels like the e-reader because they had very little at the time in terms of entertainment. The postal office, however, was incredibly restrictive about what could be sent and unbelievably slow – all parcels were opened before they reached their recipient. On the rare occasion contents were stolen but by and large we have been quite successful with items reaching recipients.</p>

We then started to set up email addresses because they weren’t even able to do that for themselves without a phone number (I used my personal number). Via limited access to email (mobile phones were contraband at the time) we liaised with the men and they sent through request for essentials like shoes, medical and dental items.

Now I write ‘we’, but at the time it was just ‘me’ because I wasn’t aware that others were doing the same thing. There were others and I was introduced to Ali Murdoch, the founder of Gifts for Manus and Nauru who has been dubbed ‘the Angel of Manus’. I joined her private Facebook group and initially I was one of nine but now there are over 3,000 members!

As the Facebook group grew, some of the Manus men got their hands on mobile phones and as long as the phones were kept out of sight, most guards who knew about them would turn a blind eye. Last year, after the centre was declared unconstitutional, that it should be closed, the men could use their mobile phones out in the open and come and go as they want. From that point, we were able to speak freely over mobile phones and publicly promote the cause to people looking to help. We have over 1200 people on the database, that’s 1200 phones that need a monthly top-up of $30-$35, totally $42,000 every month. Our crowdfunding campaigns on have been really successful and they keep getting bigger, with this current one raising over $19,000! But they still only scratch the surface.

When we set out to this journey, we didn’t anticipate we would still be going on now and the fact that we are is devastating. For as long as the centres are open, we will continue to operate because I am one of many Australians who are passionate about the closure of offshore detention centres and the rights of individuals who were seeking refuge and instead were detained.

Check out their latest crowdfunding campaign page:
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