Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group

Guided by Justice and Compassion
Many thanks to Ben Pearse Photography for his generous use of the background image.
The BMRSG is deeply concerned by a recent report from the Refugee Council of Australia that estimates almost 19,000 refugees and asylum seekers will become jobless, with homelessness amongst refugees and asylum seekers rising 12%.  We call on Federal and State Governments to ensure that no person slips through the safety net during the COVID-19 crisis.

You can pledge your support for vulnerable refugee and asylum seeker families in Australia by adding your name to the #NoChildLeftBehind campaign.  
BMRSG Newsletter 18 August 2020
Solidarity in the time of COVID
From Joy Connor Chairperson BMRSG
Who could have dreamed that unions, cross-university research teams, student unions , refugee advocacy groups, churches, mosques, temples, ethnic community leaders, community groups and activist groups like Get up and Amnesty international could be working together for refugees and all people on temporary visas! This powerful national coalition of civil society is working to guarantee to ensure Medicare, income support and visa security for everyone on temporary visas.
Sydney Alliance, which is built on the grassroots community organizing principles promoted by Barack Obama, has now spread its ideas nationally. It has been coalition building since its formation in 2011. They have been able to facilitate this national group, funded and resourced  by participants especially Refugee Council.
BMRSG is a member of Sydney Alliance. I am a member of the National Strategy Group Supporting Temporary Visa Holders which prepares briefs for those who are talking to politicians . This is an exciting group of young very clever people who are almost all from a refugee or recently arrived migrant background. Our BMRSG visitors have prepared case studies and completed surveys which are being used in a current study by UNSW and UTS of the effect of COVID on temporary visa holders (currently not covered by JobKeeper or Centrelink). These results are included in The Conversation article below.    The results will be included in the documents for politicians. Minister Tudge actually asked for more information on the study as he really didn’t think there was a problem !
Solidarity means we really are in this together during COVID-19.
As the Unions rep said “We must look after everyone in this country. Splintering off groups like asylum seekers is risking the health of the nation”

Read report in The Conversation 17 August 2020;
‘I will never come to Australia again’: new research reveals the suffering of temporary migrants during the COVID-19 crisis
 Auction Action
Our first ever  online auction has just finished and we had a 64% clearance rate! Not bad for first timers !
Thanks so much to those who generously donated all the fabulous goods. Thanks to the generous bidders. Especial thanks to Judy Pinn, Craig Beifus, George Winston, Pat Rayner and Craig Small for all the hard work in pulling it off .
Payments are still being finalized-See the next newsletter for our totals and a list of other behind the scenes helpers.
Some of the items which didn’t reach reserve will be sold on ebay . The high quality art which didn’t reach reserve will be offered at an art auction at a later date .
Some of the work of the BMRSG Community Visitors

Our Community Visitors have been busy providing a range of support.   Just two such stories appear below;
1.  A couple requested a sewing machine if possible, as the wife was isolated at home with small children.  Our community visitor wanted to buy one from Spotlight but the cheapest ones had sold out.  She was telling a friend about this and he immediately donated the money.  The visitor then drove from the upper mountains to Penrith Spotlight, used the donated money and a birthday voucher that she had been given herself.   She was able to buy a much better quality machine and to deliver it to the couple in Western Sydney.

2.  An Iranian woman known to us for some time has been suffering from severe depression.  An ESL trained community visitor has been helping her and her sister with English.  Recently she has been helping her to enrol in a TAFE basic English  course and child care.  The woman and her husband went to the TAFE but were given incorrect information about enrolment procedures and told classes were filled.  The visitor has been advocating with TAFE, obtaining medical reports to assist in special consideration, as well as keeping in touch to support the woman during her depression.

Other community visitors are delivering food, cooking oil and other goods on a regular basis.  All families and individuals, who are being supported, are reviewed every three months by the community visitor to ensure that the level of support is adequate and to monitor any changes in health or their accommodation situation.

Visiting to Villawood Detention Centre is still suspended.

Mercy Sister calls for release of Sri Lanka refugee
Despite more than 11 years in detention, and being recognised as a refugee, Alex (not his real name) has still not been granted his liberty. Now he fears he will be transferred back to Christmas Island as part of the government’s reshuffle of the detention network in response to COVID-19. ‘Christmas Island is where I was first held; I cannot return there 11 years later,’ A said.

A Sri Lankan of Sinhalese ethnicity, Alex fled his country, in fear for his life, in the midst of bloodshed during the height of the civil war. He was 29 years old when he arrived in March 2009.  A conviction for ‘people smuggling,’ relating to his journey to Australia, was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Western Australia in 2012, on the basis that the convicting jury did not properly consider the defence of ‘sudden or extraordinary emergency.’ Alex has not been re-tried in relation to the offence. He has never before or since been convicted of any crime.
Alex applied for a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa and was recognised as a refugee in 2017. Despite this, in May 2019, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Peter Dutton, personally refused his application for a Protection visa finding that he failed the ‘character test.’

On 27 February 2020, the Federal Court of Australia reversed the Minister’s decision. But since then, Alex has remained in detention, awaiting a further decision.
In Sri Lanka, A has a young daughter and son who he has never met. He recalls his first period on Christmas Island, more than ten years ago. ‘I fear not being able to use the phone, to see my daughter and son’ A said ‘after more than 10 years, I want to live freely.’

Alex's multiple supporters in the community, including Sr Elizabeth Young, who first met Alex in Curtin Detention Centre, vouch for his character and know his compassion and resilience throughout this saga. They are shocked at his prolonged detention and call for his release immediately.

A petition has been started with the ask: Hon Peter Dutton MP, we call on you to release A from detention and grant him his SHEV visa immediately!

Read more of Alex's story Mercy Sister calls for release of Sri Lankan refugee
Sign the Petition NOW
 Abuse hiding in plain sight

The Unions have identified a problem with sub contractors and labour hire firms. Many facilities (including some Aged Care homes) contract out their cleaning and washing of linen. The contractors often use labour hire firms who may take on people on temporary or no visas . People like visa over stayers, overseas students and asylum seekers, who have no access to Centrelink or medicare, can be forced to work for under award wages. They are also at risk of COVID and are wary of being tested as they cannot afford to miss a shift. Adequate financial support for everyone is the only way we can insure the whole community is safe.

If you have any information about contractors in Aged Care in the Mountains please email
The Kindness of Strangers
BMRSG got two boxes of beautiful hand-knitted children’s jumpers from Queensland, headquarters of the Knit for Charity Network. Nearly a hundred in all.
Geoff and Sue, BMRSG visitors, took some to families in South Western Sydney, Faith took some down to the House of Welcome in Western Sydney where she volunteers  and Kunchok  took photos of the jumpers and put them on the Tibetan Communities Telegraph chat group which they use  to let people know what is available.
Thanks everyone for helping to spread the kindness of strangers around and thanks to the lovely strangers who knitted them but we don’t need any more jumpers!!!!

Above is a grandson who volunteered to be the model.

Noeline Nagle, a long time volunteer with BMRSG, was RAR's August Unsung Hero.   Well deserved recognition.

You can read more of Noeline's contribution on the RAR website.
 BMRSG Unsung Supporters in Kind

There are many unsung supporters who give so much in kind, businesses and sole traders who provide services and technical expertise.

One such person is Craig from Small Web Development who designed our website and provides ongoing support of the site and calm response at short notice to a panicking web manager. Craig has provided ongoing support for 8 years saving BMRSG many thousands of dollars.
Craig is a freelance web developer who lives in the Blue Mountains.   He specialises in  WordPress and Joomla Web Development, Website Design.

Please support these businesses which are essential to the work of BMRSG.  
Membership Join or Renew

Are you a member of BMRSG?     Time to renew.

Membership of BMRSG goes from 1 July to 30 June 2021.     You can join now for the next financial year.

Annual Membership   $20    Concession $10

Membership numbers are important when we are talking to politicians.   

When you complete the form remember to click SEND at bottom left.   Then make payment.   If paying by direct debit ensure you complete the box to payee.
Join Membership                 Renew your Membership
 Letter Writing Group

The next meeting of the Letter Writing Group and will be held on 10 September at 5 Spencer St; Leura at 11am.
Phone  Judy Reynolds on 0429491862
1.     Researcher
The BMRSG website has a research section on the current situation in the home countries of those seeking asylum.    This information is used by legal teams representing those in court to dispute the decision for their deportation.

We have need for people to continue this research.       If you are interested contact Social Media Coordinator.

2.    Someone with graphic design skills for work with Social Media Coordinator on images for website, Facebook, Instagram etc.   
Contact Social Media Coordinator
Note from the Editor
If you write a letter, take a photo, stick up a sign, etc  please take a photo and send to  so we have a good news story for the next newsletter in 2 weeks time.  Any creative ideas please send.
Key Dates  
  • September - Announcement of the winners of the RAR Poster and Video Competition
  • 2021 -  RAR National Conference - Springwood
Donate and help fund our work
BMRSG Inc. supports The 2017 Uluru Statement from The Heart

Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group
Copyright © 2018 Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group Inc, All rights reserved.

Mailing address:
Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group Inc
P.O. Box 201
WENTWORTH FALLS, NSW 2782  Australia

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Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group · P.O. Box 201 · WENTWORTH FALLS, NSW 2782 · Australia

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