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Second walk to Canberra gains little support for Manus Island refugees

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Adam Richards, pictured with son Ned, have been left wondering where the support was for their second walk (Image supplied)

Last month, IA published the story of Adam Richards and his courageous walk to Canberra in support of refugees in detention centres. His second walk to the steps of Parliament House, however, was only helped by a small fraction of Canberrans who had previously pledged support. Chris Mordd Richards reports.

12 MONTHS AGO, around 300 people marched to Parliament House with Adam Richards, at the end of this then-first Walk to Canberra from Adelaide. They were there to show solidarity with those on Manus Island and Nauru, and call for the camps to close and the refugees brought here. On Sunday 11 March 2018, just over a dozen people marched with Adam to Parliament House for a second time, at the end of his second Walk to Canberra, this time from Sydney. He was there with his son Ned to again show solidarity with the asylum seekers being held in mandatory offshore detention by Australia.

Of the 15 people at the rally, including Adam, son Ned and myself as media, only three of us were from Canberra. The rest had all travelled from interstate specifically to be there. This raised the questions; had Canberra abandoned Adam and the cause, or what else had gone wrong?

It might have been partly due to the long weekend for Canberra Day, many locals had traveled out of state for the weekend as is common for Canberra long weekends. You might have reasonably expected some activists from the local refugee action group, Canberra Refugee Action Committee (RAC), to have joined Adam and supporters for the rally on Sunday, though.

According to the organiser for Adam’s walk, Chris Schmidt, Canberra RAC along with all refugee action groups around Australia should have been notified via the Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN), which exists to make it easier to disseminate information on actions of a national scale without each individual group having to contact each other on their own.

However, he added:

There was a breakdown in communication between the event organisers and Canberra RAC for which the event organisers take responsibility. A new organisation was established in 2016 to act as a coordinating body between asylum-seeker organisations around Australia; the ARAN.

ARAN sent out a notification some four to six weeks before the event and also published the event on its Facebook page and event message board. Organisations around Australia perhaps did not take enough notice of this. On the other hand, it is very easy to miss an email and not follow through. The event organisers realise that a more structured approach to keeping Canberra RAC informed was therefore desired.

The personal contact was insufficient and lacking which was the event organisers' own fault. The event organisers know that Canberra RAC would support any such event if there is another in the future, which there is likely to be. They will ensure communication is better in future.

After a question was put to Canberra RAC via their Facebook page about the lack of support for Adam’s event this time around – after they strongly supported Adam’s first walk in 2017 – their response was:

The first time anybody told Canberra RAC about Adam's second [walk] was was at 7pm the night before the rally. As such we had next to no opportunity to provide much support. Nevertheless, the premise of your first question is incorrect. We did in fact help to promote the event by social media as soon as we found out about it. Had we known about the event earlier we certainly would have been in a position to support it more.

It appears that the notice sent out via ARAN was lost among the hubbub of communication inside Canberra RAC, leading to a lack of awareness about the event until Adam had actually already arrived in Canberra. However, Canberra RAC did not respond to further questions put to them regarding the ARAN notification. This lack of local awareness certainly compounded the difficulty of supportive Canberrans knowing about the event so they could have chosen to attend.

The low numbers also raise the question of whether there is a fatigue among activists around this cause lately as well, after many years of protests, rallies, marches and more, with very little changed on Manus or Nauru to show for it. Activism fatigue, especially among human rights activists, is a well-documented issue.

The aforementioned factors combined all seemed to work against Adam and the timing of his rally one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent. Independent Australia sat down with Adam and his son Ned at the conclusion of the Sunday rally to talk about how the walk went, the lack of numbers at the event and the politics of the refugee cause among other questions, which you can watch here:

 

Adam told Independent Australia he strongly encourages all those reading this article to lobby the Labor Party on this issue or donate to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who help send aid directly to those in offshore detention. Adam is already planning his next walk and Independent Australia will bring you the full details of that when Adam is ready to announce it.

Meanwhile, Adam says to Australia:

“Together we can, and we must, bring this brutal legacy to an end.”

You can follow Chris Mordd Richards on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia.

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