Do our protests have an impact?

In November 2023, RAC (Vic) held an action outside the State Library to protest the long-standing ban on refugees from Indonesia.

In 2014 the Australian government implemented a ban on the resettlement of refugees from Indonesia.

This meant that people who had signed up with the UNHCR in Indonesia for resettlement in Australia and who had been found to be refugees by that organisation were forbidden to do so. The Albanese government maintains the ban today.

Indonesia is a major regional gateway for people to come to Australia from countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan.

As Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention this ban has left 14,000 men, women and children in limbo. They are living in poverty with no work rights and no future.

Most Australians would have no idea about this ban and so the situation goes largely unchallenged and unscrutinised.

RAC (Vic) is determined to highlight this appalling situation and stand in solidarity with those currently in limbo in Indonesia.

Although the protest drew a relatively small crowd it had a big impact on those most affected by the ban. We received dozens of messages during and after the livestream from refugees in limbo in Indonesia who were glad to see people standing in solidarity with them.

Here are just a few quotes from refugees who either participated in the action via phone or who watched the livestream. The quotes show that our actions matter.

They also show that those affected by Australia’s policies are people – not numbers or cases but people. These people have hopes and dreams and Australia’s brutal policies stand in the way.

We must continue to shine a light on this injustice and build the protest against it. “From little things, big things grow.”

We will be planning more actions in 2024. Please join us.

To the Australian people who demonstrated for us yesterday, I am writing to you today to express my sincere gratitude for your support … You have shown us that we are not forgotten and that there are people who care about our plight … it gave us hope that one day we will be able to rebuild our lives in a safe and welcoming country. We will never forget it. (Alireza)

Thank you for the rally and support. It came at a crucial time. People were losing hope. I hope to see more of this support. Your support is touching hearts and saving lives. (Hussain)

Thank you for standing in solidarity with the forgotten refugees in Indonesia. (Noor)

Sending love from Indonesia to you dear Australian kind heart people. Thanks for raise up our poor voice. We are here in Indonesia living about 11 years without any basic human rights. (Mahdi)

We all appreciate your kindness and caring about refugees in Indonesia. Thank you so much. (Assadullah)

By Barbara Forehan