Rural Australians for Refugees

Rural Australians for Refugees, Bendigo (RAR Bendigo) appreciates this opportunity to formally present ourselves to the Church in the Diocese of Sandhurst and let you know a bit about ourselves.
Most migrants, refugees and asylum seekers coming to Australia, historically and today, have gravitated to our capital cities. However, there are also people from refugee background settling in rural areas, including Bendigo and other centres across the Diocese. RAR aims to support these new neighbours and to raise public awareness of the issues involving refugees and people seeking asylum.RAR KenR 350

In recent months we have all had a small taste of the effects of isolation generally and of separation from our own families. RAR works to provide practical and moral support for local refugees whose circumstances have given them a more severe form of isolation and family separation.

We strive also to influence government, encouraging representatives to replace policies that make conditions worse for refugees and asylum seekers with policies that welcome and support them. We are currently lobbying the government to prevent the passing of a Bill granting extended powers to Australian Border Force, including the ability to confiscate mobile phones from people held in immigration detention. We see how this would isolate desperate people even more, and view it as a breach of human rights. We also support campaigns from the Asylum seeker Resource Centre and the work of Sr Brigid Arthur from the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project  

While the values of our members are formed by a range of beliefs and philosophies, for Catholic members our response is shaped by Catholic Social Teaching. This has been wonderfully demonstrated recently by the school communities at St Francis of the Fields, Strathfieldsaye and Marist College, Maiden Gully, and, I’m sure, elsewhere in schools and parishes across the Diocese. RAR Bendigo provides an umbrella for a wide range of Bendigonians, many of them being Sandhurst Diocese parishioners, to pursue their values and passions in this area.

RAR Bendigo works with community organisations, employers, local government, churches and faith communities, to raise awareness of the needs and aspirations of refugees and to promote practical and moral support. In recent years we have worked with churches to conduct a Palm Sunday gathering to hear from people of refugee background and to share poems, prayers and hymns.
Bendigo RAR is always grateful for new members to support our aim to create a more welcoming and inclusive community.

Similar groups across the Sandhurst Diocese can be found at the National Rural Australians for Refugees website - You can locate local RAR groups and their Facebook pages or websites in Albury-Wodonga, Wangaratta, Strathbogie Shire, Benalla, Echuca-Moama, Gannawarra, Beechworth, Alpine and Bendigo. All would welcome participation by their local parishes and individual parishioners.
Let’s work to fulfil our Gospel mission together, reaching out to neighbours as we make ours a happy, safe community; the welcoming heart of Victoria. I hope we can all reach out to each other to be better neighbours and to welcome newcomers with open hearts.

Meanwhile let’s all stay safe and healthy.

John Murphy
President, Rural Australians for Refugees, Bendigo