Melbourne News

Circle of silent protesters gather on World Refugee Day at the State Library of Victoria

Thursday 20 June 2019

Media and Communications Office
A ten-minute public circle of silence was held outside the State Library on World Refugee Day in a bid to send a message of protest and hope.

Headed by the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), many students from schools including Christian Brothers College, Parade College, the Xavier Social Justice Network, parish groups and members of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project and Office for Justice and Peace gathered with banners to hear from Sr. Brigid Arthur of the Brigidine Seekers Project about the challenges of the situation faced by those seeking refuge and those who attend want to see happen in the future.

‘We’re going to stand in silence for a while but we will not be silenced,’ she said.
‘If we are silenced, then what is wrong will continue to be wrong. It will only change if we actually stand in solidarity with the people who are here doing nothing more than asking for our protection.’

Sr. Brigid began by acknowledging good work that has been done to combat the issues faced by refugee families and those seeking asylum.

‘I think we start by saying that we rejoice in the good things that have happened to those who came seeking protection and our help because some good things do happen,’ she said.

‘Some people get settled while never feeling that sense that they’ve lost something too. But many do settle here, many have a hand of friendship, compassion, extended to them by people like yourselves and many, many others. So we rejoice in that.’

The Brigidine Sister then continued, referring to conditions of detention, about how refugees are treated in our communities, and the years of uncertainty and limited support faced by those who arrive by boat.

‘We acknowledge a lot of the pain that most of those people actually go through,’ said Sr. Brigid.

‘What is that pain? Well it’s the loss of their own country, I hear so many times when I talk to people, who are here and are either in detention centres or they’ve suffered a lot by not being accepted, or even those who have been accepted, I’ve asked ‘what was your country like’ and they say ‘my country was a beautiful place. I did not want to leave my country and if I had a chance I would go back. But people have made my country into a place where a lot of us can’t stay,’ she said.

‘So we acknowledge that sense of loss, that pain, we acknowledge the fact that many people live here and continue to live here in a state of total uncertainty.’

The groups who gathered in the circle of silence were calling for fair processes for people seeking asylum while they live in the local community, prompt and transparent responses to claims made for those seeking asylum, avenues for fair appeal and adequate support for people during the waiting process of their application as they seek to live a dignified life in the community.

‘I heard a refugee say the other day ‘in my heart I have a lot of pain. To be an asylum seeker is like a destiny. It’s very hard not knowing where you are going,’ Sr. Brigid explained.

‘So we think of the pain that is in the hearts of people and we think of those who are trying to alleviate this pain by the goodness they are exhibiting and those in the Australian community. We have many who are compassionate, caring and you know we should win,’ she said.

‘We will win.’
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