Want to get involved? These organisations do great things within Australia.
So you’re interested in refugees and what can be done to help – that’s why you’re here right? Here are some of the best organisations to keep you updated on the politics and how you can help.
1. Australian Human Rights Commission
The Australian Human Rights Commission has an amazing wealth of information for anyone interested in our country’s obligations, the rights of refugees and what is being done.
Have you ever wondered why Australia is allowed to indefinitely imprison people? That comes down to the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), which says that any non-citizen who attempts to enter Australia without a valid visa must be detained.
Or maybe you knew that… But what about those poor children who are being locked up? What is being done about that? That is the subject of a whole inquiry, which was the focus of quite a bit of controversy earlier this year: The Forgotten Children. All this and more can be found on the Asylum seekers and refugees guide on the Human Rights Commission website.
2. The Refugee Council of Australia
Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them. It has more than 200 organisational and over 900 individual members – you can be one!
RCOA’s work is centred around five key areas: policy, support for refugees, support for its members, community education and administration.
Having worked with RCOA at the recent Refugee Week Launch, I know that they are an awesome group of people and are always looking for new members, donations and volunteers from all over Australia! Every year they organise Refugee Week in all locations throughout the country, putting on great events – a lot of which focus on getting refugees to tell their stories – which is what we’re all about here at Born Free! I was so lucky to attend some events this year and speak with Priscilla Bul, a young woman from South Sudan who spent much of her childhood in Kakuma Refugee Camp. I have the RCOA to thank for meeting Hani Aden, too! Hani is poet from Somalia who spent time in Nauru and Christmas Island. Check out my post about her here.
3. The UN Refugee Agency
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was set up in 1950 (yay for post-war sensible thought!) and is mandated (by the UN) to
“lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and to find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.”
We have our own office right here in Canberra that oversees the region (see map!). The Regional Protection Unit of the UNHCR, as they like to be known, focuses on public information, resettlement and legal protections.
As for legal protections, although Australia has an established method of determining refugee status, UNHCR reviews some individual cases brought to its attention.
You can donate here.
4. Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is an independent organisation that started as a TAFE project, and is now the largest provider of aid, legal and health services to people seeking asylum in Australia.
More than 1200 people volunteer with them at their many great programs and events and you can too! One of their oldest and most succesful initiatives is the ASRC Foodbank so if you don’t have time or money to donate, you can donate food! Their website is wealth of information for both those seeking to help and those seeking asylum.
ChilOut was formed in 2001 when the suffering of 6 year old Shayan Badraie was aired on ABC’s Four Corners. Very quickly ChilOut drew the support of many thousands of Australian parents and citizens who were against the detention of children.
Focusing on children, ChilOut closely monitors the government’s release of information and supports campaigns like the Kids Out petition (sign here!) As well as having a set of Youth Ambassadors each year that represent the group.
I personally love their Myths vs. Facts page – well worth having a look at.
6. Amnesty International
“Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people campaigning to protect human rights.”
Amnesty runs a large number of online actions, which I encourage you to sign. Locally (for me!) Amnesty International runs the NSW Refugee Action Group but if you aren’t from NSW, you can find your local groups here. They hold a plethora of well-organised and interesting events, including recently a screening of the finale to Go Back to Where You Came From (the SBS mini-series).
7. Mums 4 Refugees
What’s not to love about this Facebook group? Cool logo, great name and a never-failing enthusiasm for the good fight. They are great to follow, churning out funny, inspiring and touching memes daily. They also have the option to get involved (just FB message email them). Please do!