Rural Australians for Refugees national conference presents Tampa Award

A telephone link from Wodonga to Manus Island allowed a Border forum to honour an Iranian journalist who continues to advocate throughout his own detention.

The Rural Australians for Refugees national conference on Sunday announced Behrouz Boochani had received the Tampa Award for his courage under extreme difficulties.

RAR national secretary Penny Vine said the delegates sang We Shall Overcome and cheered during the presentation by Tasmanian Senator Nick McKim.

“Behrouz was able to give a little speech, we were able to hear him,” Dr Vine said.

“His comment, as you would imagine, is they can feel very lonely and very overwhelmed by where they are.

“The knowledge that there are people who are supportive and helping them in all the ways that are possible is really important in keeping them sane.”

About 240 people attended the three-day conference at Wodonga Catholic College.

“There was a very strong sense of togetherness,” Dr Vine said.

“Moving forward to work together, rather than being preoccupied by what we can’t change.”

As well as keynote speakers like Gillian Triggs and Julian Burnside, the conference heard Saturday’s schools debate on whether Australia is a compassionate country regarding refugees.

The negative side argued by The Scots School Albury narrowly defeated the affirmative case put by Albury High School.

Mr Burnside, who adjudicated the contest, congratulated both teams and named Albury High School’s Charlotte Coady as the best speaker.

His own speech that followed discussed “two tiny topics”, climate change and human rights.

“My main message is to have the vision for a better future and to do that you need some knowledge of the past,” he said.

“We have forgotten why it is that respect for human rights matters.”

The barrister felt this respect had declined in Australia and encouraged the debate students to fulfil the spirit of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“It’s your turn and we need you to do it, and having heard what we heard today, I’m confident that you will be able to do it,” Mr Burnside said.

My main message is to have the vision for a better future and to do that you need some knowledge of the past

Julian Burnside