Dave/Ross on Sat, 27 Apr 2002 18:06:43 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> rally in Adelaide

Refugee Embassy Journeys to Adelaide

Dave McKay and Ross Parry will be driving the mobile "Refugee 
Embassy" from Woomera to Adelaide on Friday (May 3), so that they can 
present a document to the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, 
thanking him for his efforts to defend the rights of refugee children 
in Woomera.

This will be the first time that the embassy, a banner-draped 
mini-bus, has been away from Woomera since its birth on Easter 
Monday.  The decision to establish an embassy in Woomera followed a 
weekend of demonstrations outside the detention centre there, by 
nearly 1,000 people, a demonstration that saw fifty detainees escape, 
eleven of whom are still on the loose.

"We felt that efforts needed to be made to improve the plight of 
refugees through legal means" McKay explains.  "So Ross and I 
informed police in Woomera on Easter Sunday that we were going to 
stay on and seek permission to visit detainees on a regular basis."

McKay was rewarded for his candidness by being arrested for 
trespassing, just minutes after the last busload of demonstrators 
departed from the campsite in front of the detention centre, on April 
1... 'an April Fools joke on us by the police negotiators,' McKay 
calls it.  A condition of bail was that he could not even enter the 
township of Woomera until May 27, when he will appear in court in 
Port Augusta.

"It was obviously an attempt to stop the embassy before it got a 
chance to start," says McKay, who, with fellow Quaker Ross Parry, 
both from Newcastle, N.S.W., simply moved to the Pimba Roadhouse, at 
the turnoff to Woomera from the Stuart Highway.

"It was a blessing in disguise," says Parry, whose job it is to 
discuss issues with tourists and locals who spot the colourful 
slogans painted on the "embassy", a blue and white Mazda bus 
identical to those used at the detention centre.  On one side of the 
bus are the words "Refugee Embassy", while the reverse side says 
"Refugee Empathy".

"We don't think of ourselves as ambassadors in any strictly legal 
sense," says McKay, "but we do feel an overwhelming responsibility to 
express empathy to the asylum seekers who are being accommodated at 

In four weeks of trying, the duo have only been able to secure a 
single visit to the reception centre, but they are hopeful that 
things may soon change.  They were told by the Centre Manager 
Designate, Mike Hughes, that access to the centre was terminated 
because of their involvement with the Easter demonstration.  However, 
the pair have given assurances that they will not participate in 
demonstrations against the Government or against the Centre 
Management if they can have their status changed so that they will be 
able to visit detainees five days a week.

Toward that end, the appearance at Parliament House in Adelaide on 
Friday will not be a protest.  "It's more of a pro... a pro... well 
just a pro-demo," says McKay.  "We are pro-anyone who will take a 
stand in favour of the emotional needs of these deeply traumatised 
asylum seekers, and we feel that Mike Rann has set a sterling example 
by campaigning for the rights of children at Woomera."

NOTE:  We would like to meet up with supporters in Adelaide on 
Friday, and would encourage people to carry placards with very 
positive slogans on them (in keeping with the 'image' we are trying 
to promote).

Some suggestions are:

Welcome to Refugees,
South Australians Care,
A fair go for all,
Rann's our Mann,
I like Mike,
Child Welfare--Everyone's Responsibility,
Thank You,
Labor 4 Refugees,
Silence = Consent, etc.

We are waiting on word from the premier's office with regard to the 
best time for the rally.  We will notify everyone by email as soon as 
we hear back.

Dave McKay and Ross Parry
Refugee Embassy
Post Restante, Woomera 5720

Phone: 0407-238805

Donations are coming in at a reasonable pace to cover our needs. 
Donations are acknowledged from the following people:

MacKinnon Family $75
Tracey Betahe      $50
David S.                $50
Bev Polzin           $50
Evan                    $60
Emma Hughes, Lorel Curry, Adele Goldie, Andrea Maksimovic, and Peter 
Wilkie unspecified amounts.

Make donations to the Refugee Embassy by depositing them in Westpac 
Bank Account number 544823, Branch number 735065, in the name of Ross 
Parry.  Our present balance is approximately $800.

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