Calling for better treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, participants in the annual Justice for Refugees SA rally marched from Victoria Square down a closed King William Street to Parliament House on North Terrace.
Representatives from various religious denominations and community agencies such as St Vincent de Paul Society were joined by members of local Catholic youth groups and the Catholic Office for Youth and Young Adults.
Sacred Heart College youth minister Maddy Forde said it was really difficult to imagine what it would be like to be a refugee. “We all have our childhood memories, but for some refugee children their childhood memories are of bars and fences stopping them from exploring, limiting their freedom,” she said.
“This rally is so important for me as we are standing alongside the people who didn’t or still don’t have a voice. We are walking in solidarity for them, and advocating for a better future for them.”
Justice for Refugees SA President John Haren spoke of the importance of Australians from all walks of life coming together to send the Government a clear message.
“We know, and the Government knows through well-documented sources, of the appalling treatment of people seeking asylum who the Australian Government have marooned for more than four years on Manus Island and Nauru,” he said.
“Another 28,000 people seeking asylum have been living in very difficult circumstances in the Australian community for more than four years on temporary visas. Even those granted Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) still have no guarantee of staying here beyond their temporary visa arrangements.”
Mr Haren also spoke of the benefits of welcoming refugees to the average person and taxpayer: “We have much to gain by welcoming people seeking asylum into our society. Australia knows what a great boon it is to take in people with such initiative, forbearance and resilience, and eliminating the costs of detention, surveillance and bureaucratic harassment would be a great saving of taxpayers’ money.”
An emotional crowd was inspired by Brougham Place Uniting Church Reverend Jenni Hughes’ address which reflected on Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the different reception he received compared to the entrance of royalty days later, and the similar reception refugees and asylum seekers face today.
“One (entrance) showed power through oppression, one showed peace,” Rev Hughes said.
“Regardless of our faith traditions or personal beliefs, today we march for a better world. We raise our voices in hope that together we can bring change.”
To become a member or learn more about supporting Justice for Refugees SA, visit: justiceforrefugeessa.org