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Byron Shire
July 7, 2022

Busy time for Ballina Region for Refugees

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Ballina Region for Refugees committee members Stanley Yeo and Lisa Dillon (rear) with Patrick Gillett (front). Photo supplied.

BR4R has not let the floods and COVID slow things down, with lots of recent happenings and more planned for the future.

All proceeds from the first Ballina market after the flood were donated to the Ballina Rotary Flood Appeal. $1,500 was gratefully received.

In other fundraising news, the organisation’s recent Bunnings BBQ raised over $2,000. Ballina Region For Refugees says this money will go to supporting people still in detention and on temporary visas, as well as those BR4R hopes to support through its resettlement program.

Many BR4R volunteers supported a recent project in collaboration with local film director Ben Gilmour to prepare humanitarian visa applications for those in the creative arts in Afghanistan, assisting people suffering through a harsh winter with very little income.

The organisation was happy to further support Mr Gilmour by allocating the UNHCR recommended amount of $200 USD directly to a number of those assisted with visa applications (over $5,000 has been allocated to date altogether).

BR4R received generous donations that made this possible, together with proceeds from screening Ben Gilmour’s film Jirga.

Community sponsorship and support

BR4R, together with many other advocacy groups, successfully lobbied the Australian government to introduce a community sponsorship program similar to those of Canada and New Zealand. The hope that is that this will lead to more refugees being settled in the Byron and Ballina Shires in the not-too-distant future.

Refugee Lantern. Photo David Lowe.

BR4R says while it was positive to see refugees in various places in Australia released from hotel prisons and detention centres recently, many of these people were released late at night and with very little money.

Some have been detained for many years, such as a young Somali woman who was held on Nauru for seven years, then sent to Melbourne. With little English and no family in Australia, she was put in temporary accommodation on her own with $300 and told she had to leave in three weeks.

While organisations and individuals in capital cities are offering practical support to these refugees, such as places to stay, cash is required for food, clothes and other expenses. The Ballina group have partnered with a WA refugee advocate, Dawn Barrington, to offer financial support to a number of individuals.

Election campaign and beyond

BR4R says it’s focusing efforts on the Richmond electorate, distributing postcards that explain the key issues facing refugees and how the parties plan to tackle those, and using social media, local radio and print media to communicate with voters in Richmond about the current unjust policies and the changes that must be made.

Coming up is a film night on Thursday June 2 at Byron Theatre to raise funds to assist asylum seekers and refugees recently released from Australian detention.

Limbo will be the next fundraising film for BR4R.

The film being screened is the BAFTA award- winning Limbo, about a disparate group of refugees stuck on a remote Scottish island awaiting the results of their asylum requests.

Omar, a young Syrian musician and Farhad, a Freddie Mercury obsessed gay Pakistani, share quarters with others fleeing persecution and war torn countries in this poignant and humorous look at the lives of people whose lives have been turned upside down.

Tickets are $25 from byrontheatre.com with all proceeds going to provide food, accommodation, medicine, phone and travel cards for refugees needing help.

Also upcoming is a trivia night at Ocean Shores on June 4, Refugee Week 2022 from 19-25 June (with a focus this year on libraries and the theme of ‘healing’), and the Run for Refugees in November, which raised more than $8,000 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre last time it was run.

Ballina Region For Refugees is actively looking for more volunteers and ideas people to assist with their activities. Interested locals are urged to contact either [email protected] or [email protected]

BR4R’s website is here.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Presently we have many deserving flood ‘refugees’ in the FNC area.
    I think they should come first for any extra assistance via local businesses.

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