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Canberra Parliament House: Please note the half-mast UN Flag...
Canberra Parliament House: At Project SafeCom we're working on raising the UN Flag higher again. It has been half-mast for a long time now...

Canberra in March O' Seven

Canberra in March 2007, especially during the last week, starting 26 March, will be a beehive of activity once again.

Both Houses of Parliament will be sitting for their last week prior to the Easter recess, while everyone in the Press Gallery will be on deck to record and report the tug-of-war between the Coalition Government and the Opposition, heated as they are by both the looming election and the cracks in the durability of both Mr Long Life - John Howard - and the Coalition government under Howard's leadership - especially now that Labor seems to have more traction than ever under the leadership of Kevin Rudd.

Project SafeCom will be there during the entire week, knocking on the doors of many Parliamentarians, hammering on the doors if need be, just to remind both sides of the House that we need justice, and much more of it, and that we need a new justice.

Below are two events of note you should consider being part of.


 :::More than 100 PHOTOS::: 17 February 2008: Photos: Manning Clark House Weekend of Ideas - the collection of photos taken by advocate Freddie Steen at the Manning Clark House sixth Weekend of Ideas, "A Fair Go for Refugees?" during the first weekend of April 2007 in Canberra's Manning Clark House in Forrest, ACT.

7 May 2007: Making sense at Manning Clark House - Some material presented or published following the Manning Clark House 2007 Weekend of Ideas: the SIEVX presentation by Tony Kevin in the media segment, the Agreed Statement of Principles issued by the Conference, and a Canberra Times article by John Warhurst.

7 May 2007: Dr Eva Sallis, Australian dream; Australian nightmare: Some thoughts on Multiculturalism and Racism - "...this place is called, with terrible irony, Blackster. It is the other side of town from Baxter, and, although less money is spent here, the echoes are stark, and when I thought about it, almost all generated by the fence." The Dymphna Clark Lecture at the Manning Clark House 6th Weekend of Ideas, "A Fair Go for Refugees?"

 :::40 PHOTOS::: 6 May 2007: Kate Durham's SIEVX Art Exhibition goes to Canberra - From 30 March to 15 April 2007, as an art exhibition associated with the Manning Clark House Weekend of Ideas, reknowned Melbourne artist Kate Durham's impressive SIEVX art exhibition visited Canberra at the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre. Project SafeCom's Jack Smit attended the exhibition's opening.

Dinner and talk

with Jack Smit of Project SafeCom

Wednesday 28 March, Vivaldi's at Australian National University

6:30pm for 7:00pm dinner and conversation, and address by Jack about 8:15pm

Project SafeCom's founder and co-ordinator Jack Smit is an ideas-man, so when he suggests that we have a talk about the question whether Tampa was about refugees or about politicians, then the topic itself explains why he is in Canberra for a week to present himself on a daily basis at the entrance of Parliament House.

This evening is about sharing ideas together, and to share many suggestions about the things you can do between now and the 2007 Federal election - for asylum seekers, human rights, issues of concern for social justice, and - for the hottest issue of all - for climate change.

This is not a fundraiser - it's a chance to be encouraged and make plans to influence the elections for a more humane Australia. Marion Le will be present and we are many Canberrans who are interested in human rights for refugees will come along. It's also a chance to encourage those who work the front line on this issue. Think about bringing a friend!

Please phone Marion Le's office (02) 6258-1419 or Jane Keogh (02) 6249-8613 for more details and to let us know if you are coming.

MANNING CLARK HOUSE: Weekend of Ideas: A Fair Go for Refugees?

An exceptional array of speakers will gather in Canberra in late March to explore the policies and practices underlying Australian governments' approaches to immigration, detention, refugees and asylum seekers.

Politicians, academics, writers and filmmakers, journalists, refugee advocates - and refugees themselves - will also consider how members of the community can make their voices heard in the debate.

The sixth annual Weekend of Ideas, organised by Manning Clark House, takes place at the House on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1, beginning each day at 9am.

Speakers at the forum - entitled A FAIR GO FOR REFUGEES? - include:

  • Refugees Mahmoud Baqiri, Aguil de'Chut Deng and Riz Wakil
  • Law professor Father Frank Brennan
  • Lawyer and refugee advocate Julian Burnside QC
  • Co-founder, Rural Australians for Refugees, Anne Coombs
  • Refugee advocate, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Pamela Curr
  • Senior DIMA (DIAC) official Peter Hughes
  • Refugee advocate Marion Le OAM
  • Journalist and author David Marr
  • Former Federal Court justice Ronald Merkel QC
  • National director, Amnesty International Mara Moustafine
  • ABC TV Four Corners journalist Deb Whitmont

They'll talk about what makes a civil society, the current Australian refugee system, the human impact of immigration policies, how social action on behalf of refugees has emerged, how the media cover the issues - and more.

"The Canberra Weekend of Ideas is a feast of talking, listening, eating and drinking in the beautiful gardens of Manning Clark House," says Penny Ramsay, Manning Clark House director.

"It's a great chance to discuss the refugee question in all its aspects, under a large open marquee. It's informal - and everyone's welcome!"

Saturday's sessions conclude with the fifth annual Dymphna Clark Lecture, to be delivered by writer and president of Australians Against Racism Dr Eva Sallis.

For more information, a forum program, to arrange interviews, contact Weekend coordinator Sandy Forbes, (02) 6295 9433 or email

Manning Clark House, a lively cultural and scholarly centre, is based in Canberra at the former home of historian Manning Clark and linguist Dymphna Clark.

PO Box 3096, Manuka ACT 2603
11 Tasmania Circle, Forrest ACT 2603
Tel: (02) 6295-9433
Email: manningclark(at)

MANNING CLARK HOUSE presents: Weekend of Ideas: A Fair Go for Refugees?

Australia, traditionally "the land of the fair go", has, in recent years, introduced ever more restrictive legislation and administrative measures targeted against asylum seekers who have independently sought refuge in Australia. This situation has led to the topic for the sixth Weekend of Ideas.

The Weekend provides an opportunity to explore and debate a topic of concern to Australians - and the world. As the number of refugees grows alarmingly, this problem cries out for urgent attention. Weekend organisers and our generous sponsors believe we can contribute to a better understanding of, and deeper compassion for, millions of people who have unwittingly become refugees, particularly those who have sought - and are seeking - refuge in Australia.

Underpinning our preparation for the event are the following two significant universal statements:

"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution". (Article 14 (1) of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

For the purposes of the Refugee Convention a refugee is defined as: "A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution." (UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Paraphrase of definition provision of Article 1 of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted in 1951, UNHCR)

The event will be held under a large marquee in the MCH gardens. Food and drink will be available. Stalls selling relevant books and other merchandise will also feature. Free tours of the historic, heritage-listed house will be conducted.

Saturday, March 31

9.00am - An overview of the refugee story, touching on the international situation and Australia's place, role and responsibilities.

  • Sebastian Clark, MCH President
  • Julian Burnside QC, barrister and refugee advocate

9.40am - Ethics and Morality: what makes a civil society? Does social justice stop at a country's borders? Responsibilities at government, public institution, academic and individual levels.

  • Dr Ben Wellings, National Europe Centre, ANU
  • Professor Frank Brennan SJ, Institute of Legal Studies, Australian Catholic University, and Notre Dame University
  • Dr Raimond Gaita, Foundation Professor of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

11.30am - The refugee 'system': The causes and world-wide patterns of refugee migration, Australia's role and humanitarian program

  • Geoff McPherson, Canberra Refugee Support Inc, Canberran of the Year, 2004
  • Peter Hughes, Deputy Secretary, DIMA
  • Prof William Maley, Director, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, ANU
  • A Regional Representative of UNHCR

12.30pm - Lunch

1.30pm - The legal dimensions. Laws, courts, tribunals and advocates: rule of law or loaded dice?

  • John Highfield, journalist, broadcaster & media spokesman, Rural Australians for Refugees
  • Ronald Merkel QC, barrister & former judge of Federal Court
  • David Manne, Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre
  • Marion Le OAM, immigration agent and advocate

2.30pm - The human impact: Mental and physical health problems among detained adult and child asylum seekers and refugees before, during and after detention.

  • Senator Andrew Bartlett, Australian Democrats
  • Dr Aamer Sultan, medical doctor, asylum seeker, former Villawood detainee and author
  • Dr Louise Newman, NSW Institute of Psychiatry
  • Dr Mary Crock, University of Sydney Law School and author

4.00pm - Moral wellsprings: religion, value systems and social action

  • Sr Jane Keogh, Brigidine Order
  • Phil Griffiths, founder ACT Refugee Action Committee
  • Senator Kerry Nettle, Australian Greens
  • Ahmed Youssef, Canberra Islamic Centre


  • Deb Whitmont, ABC TV
  • Dr Eva Sallis, writer, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide, co-founder and President of Australians Against Racism Inc.

Sunday, April 1

9.00am - Media and writing: agenda-setting and searching for the truth. The role of the news reporter, the investigative journalist and the freelance writer. Demonising language.

  • David Marr, journalist and author
  • Tony Kevin, writer, activist, former diplomat
  • Deb Whitmont, journalist, ABC TV

10.00am - Stark Realities: my story. Refugees talk about their own experiences.

  • Ngareta Rossell, refugee advocate
  • Riz Wakil, young Afghan refugee, and refugee rights activist
  • Aguil de'Chut Deng, Sudanese refugee and peace activist
  • Mahmoud Baqiri, young Afghan refugee

11.30am - Community: what can I do to contribute and make my voice heard?

  • Ron Fraser, refugee activist
  • Pamela Curr, refugee advocate, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Melbourne
  • Brett Solomon, executive director, GetUp!
  • Phil Glendenning, Director, Edmund Rice Centre

12.30pm - Lunch

1.30pm - Telling the truth about the refugee experience.

  • David Corlett, author Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers
  • Tom Zubrycki, documentary film maker
  • Arnold Zable, writer
  • Ann-Mari Jordens, writer and historian
  • Jacquie Everitt, lawyer and refugee advocate, a lawyer for family of Shayan Badraie

2.30pm - Working towards a better, more humane and caring future. Responsibilities: global, national, local. A call for action.

  • Julian Burnside QC
  • Anne Coombs, co-founder, Rural Australians for Refugees
  • Dr Carmen Lawrence MP, Australian Labor Party
  • Mara Moustafine, national director, Amnesty International Australia
  • Frederika Steen, refugee advocate, Romero Centre, Brisbane

ASSOCIATED ART EXHIBITION: An exhibition of art work by noted Australian artist Kate Durham will be held at the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre in the North Building in Civic Square (above the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery), from 30 March to 15 April. The stunning art work relates to the sinking of the SIEV X and other refugee experiences. The exhibition is assisted by the ACT Government under the ACT Multicultural Grants Program and by funds raised from community organisations and individuals.

MANNING CLARK HOUSE: Saturday 31 March - Sunday 1 April 2007
Entry $20 per day and $10 MCH members. 11 Tasmania Circle, Forrest ACT 2603

Project SafeCom