Circle of Friends helps bring Afghani teacher and her daughters to safety

We are pleased to share some good news with the arrival of Afghani teacher Laila and her daughters in Adelaide last month. Their immigration to Australia was sponsored by Circle of Friends through the Community Support Program Visa where individuals within the community cover the relocation costs for refugees trying to establish themselves in Australia. The application was spearheaded by Mij Tanith and supported by other local Circle of Friends members. After many fundraising efforts they were able to raise the necessary funds of over $60 000 and submit paperwork to the Australia Government. What followed was many months of delays and hurdles before Laila and family were finally able to gain the Visa and make the journey to Australia.

You can read more of this story on ABC News Afghan teacher migrates to Adelaide with five daughters after ‘huge’ community crowdfunding effort.

Well done to the Adelaide Circle of Friends group and all their supporters that made this possible and we all wish Laila and her children all the best as they adjust and settle into their new home.

Photo courtesy of IqbalStock on Pixabay

A Cry Went Up in the Desert: Documenting Woomera Detention Centre

The book ‘A Cry Went Up in the Desert’ provides a unique eye-witness account of the impact of the Australian Government’s policies towards asylum seekers and those who advocate for them over the period of late 1999 – 2000. These policies and actions sadly continue to reverberate and impact asylum seekers in Australia over twenty years later.

In this important book documenting the early stages of Woomera Detention Centre, editor Margaret Gunn has reproduced, with permission, a series of letters she received from  Rev Dr Tom Atherton of his attempts to advocate for people detained at Woomera.

The books editor Margaret Gunn has provided the following summary of the book:
In late 1999 the United Protestant Minister Rev Tom Atherton was living at Woomera and so saw first-hand the building of this centre and was at the receiving end of backlash against people who advocated for the people detained in the centre. At this time 800 or so American service-people were completing a rotation at the Woomera space research base when the detention centre began to be constructed in the area. Surprised by this new development, both the Rev Atherton and the local Catholic priest’s first response was to publicly ask the Minister for Immigration for air-conditioning in the 1950s brick huts on the Woomera town construction site which were to be used to house the initial 400 or so men, women and children from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


“The picture I have is of a prison-like enclave in the desert in which the 1,500 residents have rights which no one tells them about (right to legal advice, for example). They are involved in a process of evaluation of their refugee status but no one tells them about the process… and they have no idea when a decision will be made…” –  Rev Dr Tom Atherton, 13th June 2000

In response the Minister himself led the onslaught which enveloped Tom with the Minister of Immigration seeing the request for habitable accommodation being an unwelcome interference. This personal attack of exacerbated by Sydney shock-jock John Laws.

When Margaret wrote a letter of encouragement to Tom he responded and this began a 6-month exchange of emails where Tom documented confidentially his first-hand experience of doing what he could to help the detainees and guards at the detention centre.  Later Rev Atherton would say that Margaret’s letter of encouragement was the only positive letter he received amidst a torrent of hate-mail.

“I feel the need to tell this stuff confidentially to someone and you have been elected unopposed.” – Rev Dr Tom Atherton to Margaret Gunn, 25th May 2000

The 36 emails that Tom sent to Margaret were saved on her computer and recently she sought and received permission from Tom and his wife Judith to share them publicly.

As journalist Peter Mares writes of the resulting book:

“These important documents [are] a reference point for others, including future generations, to better understand, at a personal and visceral level, the pain and anguish inflicted by Australia’s immigration detention regime.”

‘A Cry Went Up in the Desert’ was published in 2023 and is available for purchase from the publisher MediaCom Education.

Calling for Action in Support of Refugees held in Immigration Detention

When: Thursday 3 August 2023, 9am – 12 noon, assemble at 8:45am
Where: District Court, Sir Samuel Way Building, corner Victoria Square and Gouger Street

Join us to support the  55 people who have been seeking compensation due to being held in immigration detention, mostly at Baxter, usually for 5 years or more, having experienced mistreatment and humiliation and many experiencing forms of torture.

Grope Hamilton and Shine Lawyers state they can bring any carers, support people and/or relatives with them to the open court.

These people have been waiting for years and their cases languish in court.

5 people between the ages of 40 – 60 years have died waiting, and it is highly likely there are many more in the same situation across the country.

Danyal Shafiq, whom I knew personally and walked alongside him from the days of detention, died of a heart attack last July aged 48 years.He was still on a Removal Pending Bridging Visa despite the UNHCR stating he was a legitimate refugee,  and having been in Australia over 23 years, 7 of those in detention.

Such an indictment on our system that has so ignored adherence to human rights principles.

This is an opportunity to highlight that this is not a new phenomena but one of long-term systemic racism and human rights violation in Australia and a time to support the 55 people as they seek justice.

Please join the 55 people and us on Thursday 3rd August at 8:45am – some of us can go inside some can stay outside and bring banners of support if you can.

Mary Allstrom and Peyman Davishzadeh,  Neami National

For latest statistics on people held in immigration detention facilities in Australia see the Refugee Council’s latest report – ‘Statistics on People in Dentention’ published 31 May 2023


10 years too long: protesting ongoing offshore detention of asylum seekers

Hosted by Adelaide Vigil for Manus and Nauru

When: WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2023 AT 12 PM – 1 PM
Where: Outside offices of Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, 70 Franklin St, Adelaide 5000,Adelaide Vigil for Manus and Nauru is organising a vigil to both mourn the 10th anniversary of ongoing detention of those sent to Manus and Nauru, and protest the continuing harm to those who are still not safely resettled and able to move on with their lives. Please follow our page and this event for further information.

Bring a flower if you can to lay at the entrance and/or leave with reception, with notes remembering those harmed.

Justice 4 Refugees are organising simultaneous events (12.00 -1.00 pm) outside the Electorate Offices of Amanda Rishworth MP and Mark Butler MP, which you could alternatively attend in support.

See how you can transform refugee resettlement in South Australia through community sponsorship!

Circle of Friends supporters may be interested in the upcoming Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) roadshow to South Australia in collaboration with Welcoming Australia. It’s an occasion bursting with opportunities to engage, learn, and contribute to the incredible work being done in the community sponsorship of refugees.

Come along to one of the community events in Adelaide to hear how everyday Australians are welcoming refugees to their local area and what this means for you.

If you’re interested in forming a sponsorship group, or just want to hear more about this program, you’re invited!

Drop in to meet the team, learn more about the CRISP, meet like-minded people with a view to forming groups, and ask the CRSA team any questions.

To join one of the events RSVP via links below.

  • Tuesday 27 June 3pm – 5pm at John Harvey Community Hall, Salisbury Community Hub, 34 Church Street, Salisbury
    RSVP here
  • Wednesday 28 June 1.00pm – 4.00pm  at Kilburn Community Centre, 59 Gladstone Avenue Kilburn
    RSVP here
  • Thursday 29 June 5.30pm arrival for 6.00pm at Venue TBC, Adelaide metro
    RSVP here
  • Friday 30 June 2.00pm – 3.00pm at  Town Hall, Bridge Street, Murray Bridge
    RSVP here

What is the CRISP program?

The Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (CRISP) enables groups of everyday Australians across the country to get involved in welcoming refugees into their local community from ‘day one’ of their Australian journey. You can find more detailed information on the CRISP, including guidebooks on how to apply, and what to do to prepare to welcome a refugee household, on their website.   Most people form groups from within their existing community – perhaps a church, school or sporting group, so those can be great places to start a conversation. If this isn’t for you, you may be able to find others seeking to form a group in your area via the facebook ‘form a local group‘ page. For people in your own area, use the featured post to find your local page.