'Ashamed to be Australian': Protesters rally in Coffs
REGIONAL and rural Australians have joined a nationwide call on the Australian Government to resettle the 1,600 asylum seekers being held at offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island.
Activists around the country have held a number of rallies this week to mark five years since the controversial offshore detention policy was reintroduced.
Around 70 people crowded around a dozen empty chairs at Coffs Harbour's city centre at the weekend.
Placed upon each chair were photographs of the 12 men who have lost their lives at the detention centres.
The rally, held by Rural Australians for Refugees, aims to bring to light the issues of inadequate health care and conditions for those in detention.
"We are part of a growing movement saying to our elected members we will not support this cruel policy. It makes us ashamed to be Australian," RAR's Marlene Griffin said.
"We can keep our borders secure without the need to punish families and children who have committed no crime. It is legal to seek asylum. Asylum seekers are fleeing for their lives from war torn countries and all they are asking us for is safety from persecution.
"Keeping the offshore detention centres open is not 'stopping the boats' or 'preventing life lost at sea'... The detention centres on Manus and Nauru could be closed immediately and it would have no effect on boats of migrants arriving in Australia."
The rally featured a number of speakers and saw protesters holding signs reading 'close Manus concentration camp now', 'bring them here', and 'evacuate Manus and Nauru now'.
"We desperately need to keep this in the minds of the public, and we need to keep up our work to assist," RAR's Mike Griffin said.
"What drives us is the reality of our Government's policy and practice on a daily basis. Twelve men have died on Manus and Nauru since 2013... they died because our government doesn't care, it keeps them out of sight and out of mind so that we don't care. Well we do.
"There are still children living in mouldy tents in the tropics of Nauru to keep them out of sight.
"Mr Turnbull, Mr Dutton, you do not do this in our name. We do believe in a compassionate country."