Author Archives: riserefugee

Proposed citizenship test simply a pathway to a new White Australia policy : 24/04/2017

Proposed citizenship test simply a pathway to a new White Australia policy – Ramesh Fernandez

The announcement of a new citizenship test by the Australian Government clearly discriminates against people coming from non-English speaking backgrounds. It is also a direct attack on refugee community groups. With this announcement, the government is saying “if you can’t speak English, go back to where you came from”.

This move also pushes people from vulnerable communities into deeper trouble, and leaves them in a state of limbo.

The existing citizenship test is already pointless, tricky and a big mess: it has made many refugees’ lives more traumatic and has decreased their mobility and safety. This is a strategy by the government to add more barriers to these people becoming citizens, clearly targeting people of colour with Hanson-style rhetoric.

When we talk about “Australian values”, have we forgotten that we live on occupied territory, and that refugees are permanently discriminated against? When the PM uses the phrase “Australian values”, he is unofficially re-introducing the White Australia policy, and continuing to undermine Indigenous sovereignty. There have been a number of refugees waiting on their citizenship test for over four years, as well as some who passed the test but were simply never invited for their citizenship ceremony.

Learning a new language is not something that happens overnight – especially for those from older generations who seek protection in Australia. This sort of anti-migrant rhetoric will add more layers to the trauma of refugees and asylum seekers who already come from persecuted backgrounds.

Saying you must speak English in order to become a citizen makes clear who you are prioritising as being worthy of becoming Australian citizens: white people and people privileged enough to have learned English. This violates one of the universal declarations of human rights that prohibits discrimination against people based on the language they speak.

Turnbull clearly takes cues from Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson – this is a direct attack on people of colour. We should not forget that the current government is trying to introduce a life-time ban on refugees coming by boat. This type of anti-migrant strategy no doubt will soon become a ban on Muslims coming and refugees settling here, similar to the US.

After British colonisation, migrants were brought to so-called Australia as indentured labour and like the Indigenous peoples of the land, many of them could not speak English or any other European language. It suited the white colonial strategy of that time. The same people, or others alike, now living in this society have suddenly become a problem for them.

Who is working in your restaurants? Who is doing the labour on your farms? Who runs your cafés? Who are your second generation migrant children working in your hospitals and law firms that were brought up by non–English speaking parents? Will you refuse their labour on the basis that they don’t speak English? Is it acceptable to exclude these people from society?

Furthermore, the Prime minister’s statement that the citizenship test would include questions on domestic violence trivialises a deep rooted problem that pervades through all communities in this country. You cannot eradicate domestic violence with multiple choice questions on a test. This area needs systemic change and funding. Conflation of the issue of domestic violence with a citizenship process that causes further exclusion of people of colour, is racist and completely deflects from the government’s own failure in eradicating domestic violence. According to our PM Malcolm Turnbull, domestic violence is an introduced species.

Australia wants to breed a white-only society under the guise of so called “multiculturalism” and it is clear that the strategy of our government is to limit and restrict people of colour in settling in Australia.

Letter from an Ex-detainee

As an ex-detainee I do not support any form of mandatory detention. As ex-detainees, we continue to suffer from mandatory detention and institutionalised forms of torture. For more than 20 years our communities have experienced death in detention, inhumane and degrading treatment at the hand of the Australian government and we continue to face serious abuses, censorship and mistreatment.

For over 20 years the Australian government has been decriminalising detention policies and breaching their international obligations as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. They have totally and absolutely failed in their moral and international obligations.

The recent decision by the PNG Supreme Court has found that the Manus Island detention centre is illegal. Their decision means this: that it is unlawful to detain people seeking asylum in indefinite detention and that seeking asylum is not a crime but a human right.

Two refugees set themselves on fire in offshore camps. One of the main precipitating reasons for their action was indefinite detention as well as other abusive refugee policies.

Australia’s “Refugee policy” should be called the “Self-destruction policy”, where we are driven to destroy ourselves. Systemic torture of detainees has resulted in serious self-harm and suicide, ever since the Australian government established Detention Centres.

The Immigration minister Peter Dutton said “the approach of this government is not going to change. We are not going to allow people to settle in our country who seek to come here by boat”. Obviously we are not criminals, we are seeking protection. We are those who have been forcibly displaced and are fleeing persecution. The Australian government should treat detainees/refugees with respect and dignity.

As ex-detainees we believe that the Australian government should close detention camps and release all detainees into the community. No one should be deported to danger where they face persecution again! We have been affected by detention policy and this is enough!

Finally I must say-Shut down all detention centres both offshore and onshore and release everyone to the community.

By RISE Member and Ex-detainee
Author of this article was in detention for 1 year including offshore and onshore.

Before you donate to a refugee nonprofit agency, you need to consider the following items to check whether they are ethical or not:

1. Is the organisation run by the affected people?
2. Does the cause directly support the affected people?
3. Does the organisation support or have they supported or worked/invested in detention centres?
4. What is their position on mandatory detention policy in Australia? Note: if they say they support detention centres doesn’t matter even 1 day or 1 month, do not support that organisation
5. Whether the affected people are in-charge of the organisation?
6. What proportion of people hired by the organisation are of refugee background?
7. Are refugees being used as a token gesture to promote the organisation?
8. History of the organisation and individuals in charge, such as, how long they have been working with refugees & what impact they have had on the refugee self determination process.
9. Is the organisation affiliated with any political parties or driven by political agendas that run counter to the interests of refugees?
10. How does the organisation support the refugee self determination process in the long term & short term?
11. Whether the organisation receives funding from the Department of immigration in any capacity-thereby creating a conflict of interest.

Written by ex-detainee and RISE member, Hisam

RISE Press Release : NO We Ex-detainees, Asylum Seekers and Refugees do NOT Support Invasion Day. (23/01/2017)

RISE Press Release Re-“Australia Day” aka Invasion day 2017

NO We Refugees, Ex-detainees and Asylum Seekers do NOT Support Invasion Day.

As refugee communities seeking protection and freedom on this land we acknowledge that we live in occupied territories where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the traditional owners and where sovereignty has never been ceded. ‘Always was, always will be Aboriginal land’

RISE represents over 30 refugee community groups in Australia and being the first registered, non-profit refugee organisation in Australia led and managed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees, RISE declares that we do not endorse any movement or individuals who claim to be pro-refugee but celebrate “Australia Day” aka Invasion Day on the 26th of January.

We believe this systemic abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a result of over 200 years of discrimination as part of the white colonial genocide strategy that continues to this day.

RISE founder, ex-detainee and CEO Ramesh Fernandez said “When you tell your kids what “Australia Day” means, would you tell them it was the day people celebrate white occupiers coming to Australia and colonising the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples which resulted in genocide, the slaughter, dispossession and continuous discrimination of Indigenous communities upto this day? Or will you teach them to perpetuate lies after lies to cover up colonial occupation and genocide?”

RISE especially requests that refugee and ex-detainee community groups in Australia NOT participate in any “Australia Day” event that celebrates the barbaric practice of genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Further Mr.Fernandez added “As survivors of occupation, rape, torture and oppression we should not undermine the struggle for survival that other oppressed community groups face. We should respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their sovereignty. It is not a day to poster yourself on a billboard, dance, sing or wrap a flag around yourself that represents occupation, colonisation and genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia”.

We fully support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples sovereignty and self-determination and stand in solidarity with them everyday. Invasion Day is another day for colonial gimmicks, post-colonial love and racism in Australia for people who still believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples don’t own this land or don’t exist.

What can you do?

Support Invasion Day rally

Donate / Amplify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples-led movements and organisations

Grandmothers Against Removals
Justice For Julieka Dhu
Hey Sis, we’ve got your back
Black Rainbow Living
Family Violence Prevention Legal Service
Latoya Rule
​First Nations Telegraph
Rebuild Aboriginal community that Burnt down
Justice for Kevin Henry

The above list was given to us by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members who support/work with RISE. If you would like to add any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples-led organisations to this list please email

Finally, we thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia who have been supporting refugee self-determination and standing in solidarity with our community groups every day.

With Solidarity

Sovereignty + Sanctuary: A First Nations / Refugee Solidarity Event held in 2016


Why I support RISE?

1. RISE is autonomously run by refugees, mainly ex-detainees

2. I’m a refugee & a person of colour

3. RISE doesn’t use images of refugees to gain funding

4. RISE is founded by an ex-detainee

5. RISE board and staff are from refugee backgrounds

6. RISE supports Indigenous sovereignty and freedom

7. RISE doesn’t compromise its values

8. RISE doesn’t support any form of detention regardless for even 1 minute or 1 day

9. RISE believes in self-determination

10. Services & projects are designed by refugees for refugees

Hisam.N , Ex-detainee and Refugee

Australian politicians want Pauline Hanson to exist – It’s not a secret

Pauline Hanson is a perfect mascot for Australian politicians in this racist state.- By Ramesh Fernandez (ex-detainee and refugee)

The 2016 federal election has brought in xenophobic and Islamophobic politicians and politics in Australia including the return of extremist groups like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation political party to the Senate. Pauline Hanson entered politics in the mid nineties on an anti-Aboriginal and anti-Asian platform. Since this time she has been given near celebrity status, with a podium to stand on to air racist anti-refugee policies that equate refugees with “terrorists”.

When I heard Pauline Hanson was re-elected, I was not surprised. Anyone who is up-to-date with the current anti-refugee and anti-Muslim propaganda in Australia and around the globe, know that there is no time like the present for people like Pauline Hanson. It is a time that has accumulated all the ‘fears’/lies Australian politicians have spread through the public over many election campaigns.

Pauline Hanson is targeting all people of colour, with particular emphasis on Indigenous peoples, Refugees, Muslims and Asians. In the lead up to the 2016 election Pauline Hanson was paid by Australia’s most watched breakfast TV news program to provide “expert” commentary on topics such as “terrorism and border security”.Basically, her xenophobic politics is nothing new and does not stop with her. Pauline Hanson wants to protect Australia from “Asians” and she refers to “Suburbs that are swamped by Asians”.

According to Pauline Hanson’s anti refugee policy she has recommended a list of “solutions” and what is remarkable here is that she is too racist to even realise that her “one nation solutions” are part of the current refugee policy. The current politicians have contributed to even more extremist, right wing racism towards refugees via immigration policies.

Her party “One nation” wants to reduce the number of Muslim refugees coming to Australia, limit family reunion, introduce temporary protection visas and re-assess refugee claims, character checks, welfare cuts and involuntary deportation. All these ‘interventions’ are part of the current refugee law, which was introduced by both Labor and Liberal governments.

Pauline Hanson wants to remove Australia as a signatory of the UN refugee convention, which Kevin Rudd tried to negotiate in 2013. In her maiden speech in 1996, regarding immigration, she clearly states that “if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country”. In 2001 during the federal election John Howard shared her sentiments: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

There is no difference between One Nation sentiments and those of Australia’s Labor and Liberal governments. After the Paris attack Pauline Hanson said “Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim, Can’t we see that these refugees may be cells that have been brought out, who have been planted (by) ISIS to become refugees, who will end up in Australia, on Australian soil”. Her comment had some backlash but a few weeks later Immigration Minister Peter Dutton linked refugees to terrorists. Dutton said “we want to make sure that we know who’s coming to this country – we’ve seen what’s happened in Istanbul and in Brussels and in Paris”. Both Hanson and Dutton have publicly said that refugees are stealing Australian jobs.

Australia is a one nation country on stolen land and it is dangerously ignorant not to acknowledge this fact. This is truly seen in the treatment & targeting of Indigenous peoples in this country both through policy and action by white Australia. An obvious second example is the fact that mostly people coming to Australia on boats to seek asylum are indefinitely tortured and sexually abused in detention centres.

Australian politicians benefit from people like Pauline Hanson; her overt racism and anti-Muslim sentiments provide a norm for their own racist sentiments. Politicians such as Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, John Howard, Scott Morrison, Chris Bowen, Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd, Amanda Vanstone, Philip Ruddock and Julia Gillard have similar anti-refugee and anti-muslim stances. Pauline Hanson’s caricature can be mocked to make the aforementioned politicians appear ‘smarter’ or ‘more ‘trustworthy’ however they share the same ultimate white Australia dream to keep this country for white people.

We are aware that there is nothing original in Pauline Hanson. Pauline Hanson has been used to open more pathways and platforms for mainstream politicians to use xenophobia to win elections over the years. She has been chanting “Stop the Boats” for over a decade with successive Australian prime ministers joining her chorus. Racism towards refugees and asylum seekers has always been an election winner. These anti-Refugee and anti-Muslim fear mongering sentiments come in different forms from different white politicians because Australia is the foundation for racist immigration policies. Australia’s legacy is that other countries use Australia as the prime model to introduce racist anti-immigration policies.

Australian politicians want Pauline Hanson to exist; she is a perfect mascot for Australian politicians in this racist state.

Help RISE arts to reach international level

RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees) is thrilled to announce that our Arts Director has been offered a unique opportunity to receive mentorship at the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) in the Netherlands from January – 02 April 2017. In order for our Arts Director to participate in this important event however, we need your help.

RISE is a not-for-profit organisation that relies almost entirely on public donations. At this current stage our Arts portfolio receives no funding and we rely heavily on the hard work of volunteers. This invitation to attend an international community arts festival is rare and we can only do so with your help.

We have 3 weeks to raise $2500 to cover part ofthe cost of a return air-fare to the Netherlands. Are you able to help make this happen?

Why is our Arts Portfolio important?

Our Arts portfolio has played a critical role in the lives of our members and provides vital opportunities for our members to develop their capacity and means for creative self-expression, while also addressing the social isolation and marginalisation that many in our communities experience. Through our projects, participants gain experience in various forms of the arts (e.g. through our Hip Hop program, the Forum Theatre project, Film-Making Workshops and more) and at all stages of development, from concept building, production, presentation, curating and through to promotion and publicity.

Why is our participation in the International Community Arts Festival important?

The International Community Arts Festival is a highly acclaimed event that brings together leading pioneers in community art from all around the world. Participating in this festival means our Arts Director is able to:

• Ensure RISE is actively represented in global conversations around refugees and asylum seeker
• Allow RISE to seek and develop partnerships with community arts organisations in Europe and from around the world
• Deliver Masterclass’ at the festival for practitioners on community arts practice
• Hold skill-sharing workshops with RISE members to impart experience and lessons learned

The RISE Arts Director, Tania Cañas, has been playing an instrumental role in the development of the RISE Arts portfolio. For more information about Tania, please see here.

Big or small, we would truly appreciate your contribution. Please help RISE to be part of this global conversation to challenge, develop, improve and continue to deliver community-based arts programing at RISE Refugee.

Please make a donation and leave a message as “RISE Arts” : here


Update on RISE’s #BlockTheBill Campaign

Dear RISE members and supporters,

As you know, last week RISE started the #BlockTheBill campaign after members of parliament in Australia’s lower house passed the bill for a lifetime ban of refugees coming by boat.The lifetime ban of refugees bill has NOT yet been passed at the upper house.

Thank you very much to all those who have supported the campaign. If you don’t know much about our #BlockTheBill campaign, we have summarised some information for your convenience.

What is the ‘lifetime ban’ on refugees?
Why do we need to #BlockTheBill?
What can YOU do?

– A script suggestion to help you when you call

More information can be found here :

While the rest of the world turns a blind eye to the highest number of refugees being forcibly displaced globally since World War 2, we as a nation can do better. We can be an example to other nations and show them that we do not let our politicians continue barbaric and racist policies against refugees who are seeking sanctuary from persecution and harm.

RISE #BlockTheBill campaign is entirely run and managed by ex-detainees and refugees at RISE. Thank you for supporting RISE’s #BlockTheBill campaign so far.


#BlockTheBill Campaign

What is the ‘lifetime ban’ on refugees?

The Coalition is proposing a bill amendment that would prevent asylum seekers arriving by boat after 19 July 2013 from ever entering Australia. On 19 July 2013, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that from this day forward, all refugees arriving by boat would be blocked from gaining long-term protection and settlement in Australia. This proposed ban would add further discrimination against refugees as it is a lifetime ban that would apply to all who were adults when they arrived to Australia after July 19, 2013 and sent to a regional processing centre such as Manus and Nauru, for the rest of their ‘natural lives’. That is, until their death, they are not allowed to enter Australia unless the minister of immigration, who is a politician, and the only person in the whole of Australia with the power to do so, decides to allow them to enter.

Information that can be referred to (name of bill: Regional processing cohort)
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 [Provisions]
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016

Why do we need to #BlockTheBill?

1. People who have fled war, trauma and torture need long term security in order to restore their lives. The proposed legislation adds major uncertainty to the lives of asylum seekers who have fled persecution and in turn exacerbates the trauma they have endured and continue to live through.
2. It is an extreme form of xenophobia and racial discrimination. Seeking asylum is not a crime and it is a right that is upheld by International law and the Refugee Convention, of which Australia is a signatory.
3. This bill impacts the reunion of families. Some of our members still have families in offshore detention centres. If this bill goes through, they will not be able to ever see their families again.
4. There is no evidence to suggest that this proposal will eventuate in saving lives. It will instead result in returning people who’ve fled from dangerous circumstances back to the extreme situations they have fled from.
5. Australia as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with one of the smallest numbers of asylum seekers. It should not hand its responsibilities to other nations.
6. Australia has a history of racism and genocide. Far right-wing sentiments are reappearing fast. It is up to us to not repeat the abhorrent acts that Australia was built on.

What can you do?

This proposal is going to be discussed at the Senate before being passed as law. We need to ‘Say No To The Life Ban Of Refugees’ and #BlockTheBill. You can help stop this by informing the Senators that you are against this proposal. Call or email the Senators and tell them you stand with refugees and do not support the lifetime ban on refugees bill.

Details of Undecided Senators:

Senator Derryn Hinch
(02) 6277 3168
1300 498 035

Senator David Leyonhjelm
(02) 6277 3054
1300 884 092

Senator Jacqui Lambie
(02) 6277 3063
(03) 6431 2233

Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore
(02) 6277 3178
(08) 8232 0440

Senator Stirling Griff
(02) 6277 3713
1300 556 115

Senator Nick Xenophon
(02) 6277 3713
1300 556 115

A script suggestion to help you when you call:
“Hi my name is …(name, if comfortable disclosing).. and I am calling from …(location)… I would like to express my concern and discontent with the proposal of imposing a lifetime ban on refugees. This goes against the Refugee Convention and International Law. It also goes against our humanity and morality as we should be assisting those in need of protection. Please vote NO to this proposal or you will lose my vote”

2. You can show your solidarity by changing your social media profile images : Facebook , Twitter , Poster , Facebook Banner

3. Get informed and read more about the #BlockTheBill campaign

4. Support RISE:
RISE does not accept any funding from the government; or money from anyone who invests in the upkeep of detention centres, prisons, land grabbing or any unethical conduct.RISE advocacy portfolio has not been funded since 2010 and we encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation so that we continue our work. We rely on your donations.

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