Young people from Trinity North Uniting Church and the remote Mowanjum Aboriginal Community, just outside of Derby in the Kimberley WA, spent an evening sharing stories over ice-cream in the January school holidays. The teenagers from Mowanjum were in Perth for a trip organised by the Boab Network, operating out of the Creative Living Centre at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. The trip is part of their School Holiday Program, which engaged kids in fun activities when fewer activities are available in their area.
Justice for Refugees WA, a network of more the 40 community organisations, faith groups and human rights agencies, is calling on Australia’s political leaders to abandon the current harsh and unjust policies of detention, uncertainty and limbo, and to instead provide permanent protection for people seeking safety. Instead of prolonging the despair of people seeking asylum, the group calls for political leaders to provide protection, security and freedom, through a fair and just process.
Over several years the group has coordinated the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees along with groups around the country. This year, as a precautionary approach in light of COVID-19, the group hosted a live webinar event at the Uniting Church in the City Hall, Perth, which was watched by small groups gathered in community centres and homes across the state.
Farhad Bandesh, a Kurdish asylum seeker who was recently released from a Melbourne immigration facility following eight years of detention, called into the Perth Palm Sunday event to share his experience. Mr Bandesh said, “I can’t describe how good it feels to be out of detention – freedom is beautiful. We just need everyone to be free.”
Joanna Josephs, General Manager of the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) was a guest speaker at the event. CARAD provides essential case management, emergency relief and volunteer support for people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in Perth, and they are concerned at the increasing demands on their service.
Ms Josephs explained that it was a particularly challenging time at the moment, saying, “We have been experiencing a significant increase in need among our client community.
“There continues to be drastic cuts to the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) program. In WA, out of the thousands of people seeking asylum living in our community, only 78 people remain eligible to receive just $36 per day from Centrelink (through the SRSS program). All of the other people seeking asylum are completely ineligible for any form of Centrelink.
“The federal government must not continue to deliberately force people seeking asylum to live in the community with no financial support while they take years to process asylum claims.”
Associate Professor Caroline Fleay, Co-Director of the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University added her voice to the call for a humane response to people seeking safety saying, “Let’s be guided by compassion in how we respond to others. Instead of limbo and uncertainty, we can offer freedom and a future where people seeking asylum and their families are safe.
“The cruelty of immigration detention, forcing people to live on temporary visas indefinitely, and refusing to reunite families, none of these are humane solutions for those who have turned to us for refuge.”
Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church Western Australia said, “Australians have had enough of the cruel marginalisation of refugees. People want to see some real change in the way people seeking asylum are treated. Indefinite detention and temporary visas create terrible anguish that we cannot, with good conscience, continue to allow.”
Refugees and people seeking asylum currently languish in either the limbo of detention or the uncertainty of temporary protection visas. People in Papua New Guinea and Nauru are approaching their eighth year in limbo.
Approximately 30,000 refugees in Australia (the “legacy caseload”) await visa grants or live on temporary visas with their futures shrouded in uncertainty and limbo. Many families are separated with no hope for reunification due to the cruelty of current policy, and live in constant fear of deportation to danger.
For further information contact the UCWA Social Justice team at email@example.com.
To watch the livestream of the 2021 Justice for Refugees event, click here.
Leith Ryder, a Past President of the Congregational Union in WA, passed away peacefully on Sunday 7 March.
Leith was born in September 1920 in Bunbury, the eldest of four children. The family attended the Congregational Church in Bunbury. As a toddler he was attracted to musical performances, especially brass bands. At the age of ten he started learning the piano and as a teenager he was attracted to the pipe organ. He acquired a book on how to play the organ and proceeded to teach himself. In later life, he was aided by several church organists.
Bay Life Op Shop, out of Busselton Uniting Church, has opened in a new, revamped premises. The new shop stands on the site of the old Match Factory, which burnt down in an electrical fire in March 2019.
Hours before Perth and the South West went into its second lockdown, the Presbytery of WA ordained Rev Sione Lea’aetoa as a Minister of the Word at All Saint’s Floreat Uniting Church. Sione has begun a placement at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, in East Perth.
As part of the Uniting Church WA’s pastoral and material response to people affected in the recent Wooroloo and Hills bushfires, a $20 000 donation has been committed to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund (LMDRF), Western Australia’s official State emergency fund, to help ease the financial burden of people’s loss.
During the fires, the Uniting Church WA’s Disaster Relief and Community Recovery Working Group held emergency meetings to discuss immediate support to congregations who are ministering in affected communities.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk about a difficult topic by being part of a group of friends talking about the subject. This brings in a variety of other people’s experiences. Having a chance to tune in to other people’s feelings and reactions without directly having to give your own views can help you shape your own thoughts. Once the conversation is proceeding in a respectful manner you can choose your moment to reveal your personal views, experiences or concerns.
A new, free app designed to support and encourage people to share their faith in an informal way will be launched on Saturday 27 March at a national online event.
The 2017 United Nations (UN) Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons became international law on Friday 22 January, with its ‘entry into force’ now official. The Uniting Church WA actively advocates for a nuclear-free future through the Social Justice Commission and supports the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
People from diverse local faith communities held a symbolic action today at Uniting Church in the City (UCIC), Wesley Perth where they rang bells to ‘sound the alarm’ for the climate.
The group rang bells at 11.00am on Thursday 11 March as part of a global multi-faith Day of Action in which over a hundred faith communities across Australia will call for more ambitious action on climate change. The lead local organisation is the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), part of GreenFaith International.