BY JORDAN FERMANIS
In what Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon called a “historic day”, hundreds of people gathered at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday June 19 to protest for the closure of the Australian government’s offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
The protest was originally scheduled to be a march, however inclement weather resulted in the City of Sydney opening their doors to protestors.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore showed her support for the plight of refugees and asylum seekers supporting a ‘chalk your support’ initiative coinciding with Refugee Week from June 19 to 25 June. The Lord Mayor wrote that the ‘City of Sydney welcomes refugees’ on a chalk board that was placed on stage at the demonstration.
The rally was organised by the Refugee Action Coalition, a spokesperson from the group told City Hub that this protest was significant with the election only two weeks away.
“Around the election it is important to have a strong showing. To show there is a movement, there is a campaign to try and reverse the government’s policies on refugees,” the spokesperson said.
The RAC is not politically affiliated and does not endorse the immigration policies of either of the two major parties.
“Whichever major party wins government, it’s not going to solve the crisis in terms of offshore detention or refugee policies. There’s going to have to be a continued campaign,” the spokesperson said.
Speaking at the rally, Senator Rhiannon said that the Greens do not support any sort of offshore detention process.
“For the Greens, we continue to stand on a position that Manus and Nauru must close down, that temporary protection visas must be abolished,” Senator Rhiannon said.
Senator Rhiannon however urged the people in attendance to keep the pressure on the government to reverse the policy of offshore detention which was readopted by the Liberal Party in 2012.
“We’re not going to change the Liberals, Labor and Nationals prior to the election but elections are a period to keep them under pressure. These rallies are being held around the country,” Sen. Rhiannon said.
Also speaking at the rally was former At the Movies co-host Margaret Pomeranz who was critical of the current refugee and asylum seeker policy and of past moves by the Greens to not negotiate a third party placement strategy.
“I minded the Greens terribly, nay saying Julia Gillard’s Malaysia Solution, that surely would have been a far better answer to what we have now. Now we have to live with the result, Nauru and Manus Island,” Ms Pomeranz said.
As the protests by refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru reach their 100th consecutive day on the 20th June, the rally held in Sydney was a sign of solidarity for those affected by the government’s immigration policies. Margaret Pomeranz reminded attendees that the immigration policies adopted by the government are on the Australian public’s behalf and that we should all think about what the policies say about us as a nation.
“The situation can’t go on. It’s a scourge on our consciousness,” Pomeranz said.