Trinity Aid for Refugees (TAR)

Origins

Established in 2014, Trinity Aid For Refugees (TAR) seeks to provide support for asylum seekers and refugees.  Its members comprise people from the four communities of Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads who are either members or friends of Holy Trinity Parish.

The work of TAR is a Christian response to the Gospel imperative to love thy neighbour, best articulated in Matthew 25:35:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

The work of TAR is not restricted to people of Christian faith.  Indeed, across Australia, many people respond to the needs of asylum seekers and refugees motivated by universal humanitarian values best encapsulated in the golden rule attributed to Confucius “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.  To this end, TAR seeks to work in harmony with other support groups such as Queenscliff Rural Aid for Refugees, the Uniting Church, St James Anglican Parish, Grandmothers for Refugees, and Combined Refugee Action Group Geelong (CRAG).

Aims

TARs aims are:

  • To provide practical support for asylum seekers and refugees through annual collections of groceries and shopping vouchers within the four communities
  • To engage in advocacy to seek change in the policies of government and opposition political parties through letter writing and petitions.
  • To provide holiday activities for refugee and asylum seeker families in the Geelong region
  • To liaise and support the activities of other like-minded groups.

Whilst not motivated or supportive of any individual political party, the focus of TAR is to change the policies of the two major political parties in Australia whose attitudes are similar particularly with respect to mandatory detention of boat arrivals in offshore centres.

Current issues which reflect a challenge to justice:

  • The contradictory distinction between boat arrivals and arrivals by air. Boat arrivals are detained in offshore processing centres (Nauru, Christmas Island, and previously Manus Island) whilst arrivals by air are released into the community after initial security and health checks.
  • Successive governments of both major political parties have stated asylum seekers who arrive by boat will never be permanently settled in Australia. This policy is clearly in breach of the United Nations 1951 Convention on Refugees.
  • The opportunity cost to other government wellbeing programs such as health and NDIS. Since 2012, $7 billion has been spent on Nauru detention (currently $10,000 per day for those remaining in detention).
  • The plight of individuals and groups:
    • Most refugees on bridging visas within Australia are now denied Newstart and rely on NGOs and charities for the basics of life including food and rental support. Some have no work rights.
    • The Biloela family. This Tamil family fled Sri Lanka because of civil war and the fear of persecution.  They were welcomed into the Queensland town of Biloela where the husband worked, the family integrated into the supportive local community, and where two daughters were born.  Forcibly removed from Biloela to be deported when their visas expired, the family have endured over 1000 days in detention, the last two years on Christmas Island.  Ministerial discretion to allow them to return to Biloela has not been exercised.  Court challenges to their deportation currently continue.
    • NGOs and charities report that it is frequently single women and children who bear the brunt of poverty caused by government refugee policies and lack of family support.
    • Medivac detainees moved from Nauru to Melbourne have instead been isolated within hotels for over 12 months.
  • Little government support exists for legal challenges to refugee claims for visas, with courts and tribunals experiencing long backlogs of pending cases. Most legal cases are undertaken on a pro bono basis or funded by NGOs and charities.
  • A huge anomaly exists in the Commonwealth Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees compared to other visa over-stayers such as backpackers, tourists and temporary workers. At any point in time it is estimated that there are over 60,000 visa over-stayers in Australia yet they are pursued with little interest or vigour by the government compared to the efforts and finance committed to not accepting refugees and asylum seekers.

Australia is a generous and prosperous nation, yet in the current climate of worldwide refugee movement we should be doing better.  In 2020 it was estimated that civil wars, drought and poverty had caused 26 million worldwide refugees and 45 million displaced persons.  Australia has placed a current ceiling of 18,750 on UN sponsored refugees within an annual migration figure of approximately 150,000 (currently far less because of Covid).

The issue of asylum seekers and refugees needs to move from the political arena to the realm of humanitarian relief and support.  Support for the work of TAR and similar groups is invited.

Want to help?

For information on where to donate groceries and vouchers contact Shirley Hurley:

shirleyhurley@iinet.net.au or 0409 424 243

For background information and advocacy contact Michael Doyle:

doylm@ozemail.com.au