Meander Valley Gazette

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Rowing for refugees

News, FeatureJoanne Eisemann

By Sharon Webb

AROUND 20 Meander Valley residents took to the water last month to add their voices to other Australians fighting to get child refugees off‰ Nauru.

Battling a stiff‰ wind on Deloraine’s Meander River in their canoes, kayaks and rowboats, they joined 1000 people in Sydney’s Hyde Park who listened to rock idol Jimmy Barnes, around 500 people in Melbourne and 6000 petitioning Australian doctors to demonstrate their strong objections to keeping children on Nauru.

Local organiser Pip Stanley said on the day: “There are still 80 kids on Nauru and they are having to go through the courts to get to Australia.

“The government is saying all will be off‰ by Christmas but we believe there’s no reason they can’t come now.”

According to Guardian Australia, the Federal Government is spending around $300,000 a year fighting legal cases aimed at getting refugees off‰ Nauru, including “a large number of children, among whom there is a worsening mental health crisis and several cases of resignation syndrome – a rare and potentially fatal condition that is considered a reaction to extreme trauma.”

As Deloraine’s own boat people demonstrated their prowess on the water, complete with wobbly rowing and at least one unexpected dip, Reedy Marsh resident and former Meander Primary School principal Graham Pennicott maintained the Australian Government had created “a humanitarian crisis” on Nauru.

Deloraine resident Andy Dunn coxed an inexperienced rowing crew while Mark Kitteridge said he’d just wanted to turn up and make his voice heard on the issue.

Locals Margaret Tabor and John Phelps sported canoe signs saying “Try being humane” and “Sorry?” with John commenting: “My theory is that the Australian PM in 10 years’ time will be saying sorry to these refugees.

Margaret Tabor and John Phelps added their voices to a protest for refugees held on the Meander River.  Photo by Mike Moores

Margaret Tabor and John Phelps added their voices to a protest for refugees held on the Meander River.

Photo by Mike Moores