RAC Planning Meeting Notes – Sat 19 January, 2019

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Agenda:

1. Political update

2. Reviewing local and national campaign

3. Orienting from now to Palm Sunday & the election

4. Small group workshops & debrief

5. Motions & Steering Committee elections

Political update:

  • Possible focus for campaign – expiration of contract with Circo and cost of regime
  • Suggested slogan for immediate campaign, including Palm Sunday – Enough is Enough: All Off Manus & Nauru in 2019
  • Suggested reframing to ‘2019 – All Off Manus & Nauru’
  • Abridge to Enough! for corflutes; ‘Enough is Enough’ for posters, leaflets
  • Expand argument in accompanying text – eg not just ‘off’ but to where; pathways not turnbacks
  • Have concise ready response for arguments regarding opening gates to people smugglers
  • Churches on Manus now referring to ‘humanitarian evacuation’ – pick up on this theme and use over remaining month before parliament resumes to keep focus on the Bill and it being put to the House Of Reps on resumption

Local campaign:

  • Central RAC activities included in discussion document – noted that in 2018 RAC held fewer snap rallies
  • Significant focus on getting children out of detention working in conjunction with World Vision, the Refugee Council and Save the Children.
  • Working group reports with activities undertaken included in document – it is important to recognise individual efforts – shopping centre signs, the letter writing campaign and the vigil/the soccer game.
  • Focus continued on innovating and using creative ideas to build enthusiasm, engagement and motivation to get involved and continue being active.
  • Innovations included use of direct texting service with messages sent to full contact list (approx. 4000 contacts) to publicise the Palm Sunday rally.
  • Medical Students for Refugees marched as a contingent for the first time at the March Palm Sunday rally following the successful public meeting with Dr Al Muderis.
  • The October book launch for Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But The Mountains was well received but the venue was difficult to access. This reflects the ongoing issues with securing appropriate venues for events.
  • Continued efforts to try new rally locations, such as the August rally on the Commonwealth Ave median strip. Acknowledged that this location was not kid friendly, although its visibility extended campaign reach to wider audience.
  • It is important to connect with pedestrian and car traffic on periphery of rallies.
  • Lack of media traction is an on-going issue. RAC issued 8 media releases and one opinion piece. Only the latter was picked up by the Canberra Times and subsequently appeared in the Brisbane and Sydney Fairfax papers.
  • Need to follow up new people more quickly to capitalise on their enthusiasm and draw them into ongoing activity.
  • Use current shift in sentiment and momentum for change to reenergise supporters – to mitigate the fatigue associated with the length of the campaign

National campaign – Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN):

  • ARAN needs more publicity – another national conference is in doubt.
  • ARAN has increased its membership from 42 a few years ago to 79 now. Twitter and Facebook followers have increased.
  • The group promoted information to Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) participants/ journalists prior to the meeting held on Nauru in 2018 and APEC in PNG.
  • ARAN was not part of the coalition that initiated the #KidsoffNauru campaign run by NGOs, doctors and Refugee Council Of Australia (RCOA) – unclear why activist groups were not invited to participate.
  • The media are more interested in national events – ARAN could assist in building a national focus through national press releases that have more chance of media coverage.
  • Organise road show to build momentum for Palm Sunday rally – get publicity en-route, decorate buses – maximise visibility. People could be encouraged to travel to other states for advocacy events/relevant demonstrations etc.
  • ARAN has a good website, particularly the events page. RAC does not currently contribute content. This could be improved in 2019.
  • ARAN has great potential to be a powerful force e.g. if local membership can be activated in various electorates. – RAC to consider how to increase ARAN profile locally
  • Question posed – can ARAN be an associate member of the Refugee Council of Australia?
  • ARAN struggles with authority and sign off – who is ARAN speaking for?

Orienting to Palm Sunday & the election – suggestions for building:

  • Expectation is that the PS rally will be held before the election – building for the rally is RAC’s intervention in the election campaign. If election is early, we hold to account whatever political party gets into power.
  • Decision not to have too many events in lead up to Palm Sunday (PS) due to resource constraints.
  • Use tried and true methods (corflutes, leafletting, banner drops, intersection sign holding, SMS messaging).
  • New methods : trailers with corflutes, email trees, radio advertising.
  • Super Stalls Saturday (April 6) – tables with info etc. in local shopping centres. Aims to attract a new base.
  • Series of videos with prominent people e.g. clergy, bands, unionists.
  • Leaflet at opening of light rail, bus terminals
  • ‘Ride the buses’ blitz day – with sandwich boards, signs etc – Have a ‘ride the buses’ day to hand out leaflets or wear a corflute to encourage conversations.
  • On the day: have a flash mob dancing or singing event; use the LED screen to project display speakers and performers; have contingents (working groups, schools, Unis etc.)
  • Consider doing flash mobs at other locations as to raise awareness, at EPIC (prearranged group of people appear to randomly start dancing or singing).
  • Endeavour to have themes of – ‘Enough is Enough! 2019 All off Manus & Nauru – picked up as national themes
  • Build a large contingent of young people at rally – school students, uni students etc
  • Look for opportunities to build solidarity with other campaigns and community groups to establish common ground and to build rally eg school students striking for climate action; Adani campaign
  • Pose questions to politicians and publicise their responses on social media – what will they do about this situation and about those trapped on Manus and Nauru
  • Use in the campaign the idea of imagining a world where there is no Manus and Nauru.
  • Tash (graphic designer) would like some resources – photos of refugees if anyone has them or if anyone can help with graphics let her know.

Small group workshops – reports:

Design and creative

  • Recognising that the personal gets people to connect with asylum seekers and their situation. Action at rally – five asylum seekers, five of us wearing a placard style or holding a sign with picture (pixelated?) (deidentified?) – someone your age and gender – with their story – ending in ‘In your country I am safe, In my country I am not’ – has wider potential for other actions. I think Women Friends of Nauru referred to as a resource – postcard project where stories gathered.
  • A portable installation with refugee art, writing, stories
  • Developed from this – a portable ‘wall’ – thinking a piece of canvas, where people can put their messages of support, like a community art project , a wall becomes a door, a welcome wall
  • Continuous reading of No Friend But the Mountain. Get in Guinness Book of Records. Do theatre response at same time.

Social media

  • Need for advertising
  • Filmmaking – rallies, distributing resources
  • Planning – need to know when to post, generating reach.
  • #tags need to be consistent across platforms – Unified messages in different ways for different groups.
  • Strategy – need to do this in an effective way. National strategy, not confined to CBR RAC
  • Scannable barcodes
  • Memes – humour cuts through. Scathing, funny but sensitive.
  • Questions – eg asking kids things is cute and funny
  • Algorithms as a stumbling block
  • Mobilising people who already agree with us
  • Oversaturation à disengagement
  • Feeding content to RAC page – eg if RAC people have an article or something similar that they would like us to share, arrange for this to be sent to us. E.g. tweets from Aziz Abdul Adam and Behrouz Boochani etc.
  • Social media’s strength is networking, i.e. getting your existing friends to move their activism offline into ‘real life’.
  • Electoral outcomes in Canberra – focussing on particular reps, none of the federal reps have come out publicly to support refugee action.
  • RAC currently has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Working groups all have FB.
  • Sponsored ads

Community reach

  • For intersection sign holding, ensure leaflets for pedestrian traffic; need clearer signs suitable for activity – easily readable, accessible and contrast with backgrounds; make activity fun, action oriented – eg honk your support
  • ‘Ride the buses’ day – be approachable – eg ‘find out more – come and ask me’; tshirts specifically for this purpose, give the heads up to bus drivers through the relevant union, people to take photos of action for social media
  • Build interest through approaching unions
  • Consider greater use of petitions or postcards on stalls so we’re actively engaging interested people and giving them something to do – use already available postcards – Rainbow, cases of extreme medical neglect developed by Jane K
  • Extend reach through targeted approaches to other campaigns, community associations and councils – attend community meetings and speak about this issue with a view to establishing common ground – seek to have information included in community newsletters
  • Attend other events to share information and publicise issue – other rallies, events, festivals, markets
  • Display clear posters at suburban centres, raise greater awareness among medical profession through information displayed and available at the hospitals
  • Issue a ‘welcome to 2019’ RAC email that includes information about the opportunities and the work to be done
  • Produce large bright yellow stickers – bin and bumper – ‘Enough!’ – picking up themes

Mobilising school students

The group identified and discussed several challenges organising school students, including the need to find ways to connect with and motivate students; the goal of having a network of students who can lead others to organise events in their own schools; and the challenge of finding an effective and accessible means of communication for students and RAC.

To address the question of communication, we discussed the possibility of using pre-existing channels, such as the communication platform on Slack used by the School Strikers for Climate, to publicise the existence of our group. We also decided to set up a closed Facebook group for School Students for Refugees, which students can join, as a place to easily get messages out and share ideas. We will need to further consider what communication platform works best to keep in contact with students.

To begin establishing a network of students, we decided to compile a list of all recent student contacts who signed up to the RAC list at past events. We will email this list about the existence of School Students for Refugees to get a sense of how many people are interested in participating. We will also contact teachers who may be interested in participating in or publicising the group.

After the school term starts we will begin to publicise a first event for the group, potentially a banner painting afternoon, with posters outside of schools, messages through student networks (e.g. Slack), and through our contacts. After the event, we will need to follow up personally and regularly with all students. We will also need to further brainstorm the next steps.

In the group discussion, two conveners were appointed: Anna Dennis and Bianca Wilson.

Campus Activism Summary

Key issues identified:
– Maintaining membership and participation rate on both campuses. Natural attrition rate of members through graduation, increase in number of other commitments etc. also are a threat to ability to organise.

– How to keep engagement with participants beyond a casual level and involve members in organising efforts. Student signups are not reflected enough in attendance.

– Coming back to the question of what we want to achieve with campus activism especially with changes happening around offshore detention and Manus and Nauru. Is our focus still on the university’s relationship with the issue? Or is our main focus building momentum for the Canberra + ARAN campaign as a whole?

Strengths:
– Still experienced participants around despite fewer numbers

Weaknesses:
– Low retention of participants in RAC in the new year – Current low numbers in core group

Opportunities:
– O-Week presents an opportunity to rebuild membership – Election year presents an opportunity to reinvigorate discussion around the issue

Threats:
– Navigating the semester calendar in regard to exam periods. These are inevitable factors that we will have to plan our efforts around.

Ideas and strategies:
– Coordinating ANU and UC social meetings to build relationship between campus groups.

– Coordinating RAC activities with those of other clubs and groups on campus where we can.

– ‘Snowflake organising’ – beginning to engage new members in the organising process by first starting with giving them a small responsibility that through a bit of time can gradually escalate into bigger involvement.

– Use personal social networks with people living in on-campus residences to help publicise RAC events and rallies, and involvement with the campaign. E.g. getting someone we know to bring a friend, putting fliers up on noticeboards etc.

– Informal workshops to help members develop skills in activism – e.g. ‘how to have positive conversations’

Necessities:
– Delegating responsibilities for preparing O-Week Market Day stall, early semester activities

– Pinpointing direction and ambitions for RAC efforts on campus this semester

Motions & decisions:

1. RAC calls on the Minister for Immigration, the Hon David Coleman MP, and the Shadow Minister for Immigration, the Hon Shayne Neumann MP, to indicate their willingness to use Ministerial powers to grant asylum to the 3 gay and lesbian athletes and their 2 supporters from the Cameroons who remained in Australia following the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Rainbow RAC will co-endorse and participate in a multi-media campaign to gather signatures to that effect.
Motion endorsed

2. Decision to change the name of the Refugee Action Committee to Refugee Action Campaign. The reason for this change was to reflect the inclusive nature of the organisation and remove the connotation of ‘committee’, which suggests a more closed body involving a small group of people.

Campaign materials will be progressively changed. No additional costs to be incurred in effecting name change.
Decision endorsed

Steering Committee elected – Steering Committee elections are held every 6 months.

Committee members are:

Madeleine Andrews Anna Dennis
Matthew Doohan John Dove
Adam Fenech Zaki Haidari
Lauren Honcope Janet Hutchison
John Minns Adair O’Brien
Tamara Ryan Sophie Singh
Sarah St Vincent Welch Bianca Wilson