MEMBERS of the Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees (AIRAR) made an impression at last month’s national RAR conference.
Representatives from the local group were among more than 300 people who attended the conference, held in Wodonga.
RAR patron Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs gave the keynote address, calling for delegates to push for an Australian Bill of Rights.
“Unlike every other comparable country, Australia has no Bill of Rights against which government policies, legislation and action can be benchmarked,” she said.
AIRAR members David and Jill Parris followed up Professor Triggs’ call and their lobbying bore fruit, with the conference delegates unanimously agreeing to the following declaration: “There is an urgent need for an Australian Charter of Human Rights which recognises that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. We call for the Parliament of Australia to meet, protect, and uphold our legal and moral obligations under International human rights conventions and human rights laws.”
Jill Parris told the story of her refugee friend Man Man. During his detention on Manus Island, she and Man had exchanged landscape photographs via Facebook.
Man is now in the United States and Jill noted how positive it was for him to be met by a contact of hers when he arrived there.
Any delegates with relatives and friends in America were encouraged to similarly meet refugees arriving and help them settle into their new life, and many volunteers came forward offering assistance.
Aireys Inlet anthropologist Lynn Barnett worked with refugee delegates and workshop presenters, and the AIRAR letter writing team of Cecily and Laurie Mason and Gary Johnson took 100 copies of a lobbying letter developed for the conference, which were taken by delegates for use by their own local groups.
Other speakers at the conference included noted human rights advocate Julian Burnside, Madeline Gleeson from the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, and Iranian journalist Behrouz Bouchani, who spoke by telephone hook-up and was presented with RAR Tampa Award.