The Guardian September 12, 2001


Refugees supported at Sydney rally

Almost 2000 people gathered in Sydney's Town Hall square last Sunday to 
express their support for the detained and expelled refugees. After the 
rally they took to the streets and marched to the office of Prime Minister 
John Howard.

The rally, which was organised at comparatively short notice, was 
characterised by the broad range of backgrounds of those attending. Many 
carried home-made placards, with slogans such as "Howard's Tampa tantrum" 
and don't "Tampa with human rights". There were a considerable number of 
religious groups, and one of the most eloquent slogans of the day was the 
biblical quotation which read simply, "I was a stranger and you took me 
in".

The rally was addressed by a number of speakers, including some from 
refugee communities. A representative of Afghan women refugees in Australia 
gave horrifying details of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and of the 
struggle of those who have fled the country, including those who have 
sought to find refuge in Australia.

Representing Aboriginal people, ATSIC Commissioner Ray Robinson welcomed 
those who have come to live on Aboriginal soil, and reminded the meeting 
that those who established the British colony in 1788 did so without any 
legal agreement with the Aboriginal population of the time!

He said that it was ironic that the successors to those imperialists, the 
"national robbers", should now complain about others arriving without 
recourse to normal procedures. He said that as far as he was concerned, all 
were welcome, regardless of the existence or otherwise of their passports 
or documentation.

One of the most passionate speeches was given by Sister Connolly of the 
Mary McIllop Institute, who expressed her outrage at the gross inhumanity 
of the Howard government's refugee policy. She could have spoken for anyone 
at that rally.

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