Bendigo protest coincides with national movement for asylum seeker rights

Bendigonians angered by the federal government’s asylum seeker policy have rallied in Rosalind Park for the second time in five days.

The Rural Australians for Refugees demonstration attracted close to 100 people, many of whom were also present at the Grandmothers Against Detention protest last Thursday evening. 

The protests follow last week’s High Court decision that found it was legal to transport ailing asylum seekers back to Nauru after they received medical treatment on the Australian mainland.

RAR members John and Jillian Wells said they were appalled by the government and Labor opposition’s support of offshore detention. 

“It’s complete cruelty and abuse,” Mr Wells said.

Ms Wells said she came to the protest because she felt she had to do something, and hoped it raised awareness about the asylum seekers’ plight in her local community. 

The RAR demonstration coincided with protests across Australia, many of which were attended by the nation’s religious leaders.

Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Reverend John Roundhill, joined the Bendigo event on Monday and called offshore detention “a moral tragedy”. 

“The High Court decision is utterly regrettable, and I think we’ve got to be offering hospitality to those seeking asylum in Australia,” he said.

Mr Roundhill said his church was considering ways it could help asylum seekers, and if providing sanctuary within the community was possible, then it would have his support. 

Asked why he thought religious groups had been outspoken about the issue, he said people from all faiths had experienced migration or sought refuge.