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MEDIA RELEASE | 12 September 2018

"We won't turn our backs!"

Australians show solidarity with the men on Manus Island through new crowdfunding campaign.

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Angry and ashamed by the government’s treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum on Manus Island, in just a few days caring Australians have pledged more than half of the funds needed to launch a new program aimed at providing practical care and support to refugee men waiting for safe re-settlement in a third country that will accept them.

With still one week remaining to reach the $64,000 crowdfunding target, Australians have shown that they refuse to turn their back on hundreds of men left living in uncertainty following the closure of the Manus detention centre in October 2017.  Determined to help restore hope and dignity to those who have lost five years of their lives in detention, along with their gifts, Australians also expressed solidarity with the men through heartfelt messages: 

"There are countless Australians who are thinking of each and every one of you.
"You are being heard, and there is a groundswell of compassion for your plight."
"These human beings have suffered enough. They deserve our love.

The program, which is being designed following a consultation with the men on the island, is being launched by Act for Peace in partnership with the Manus Provincial Council of Churches (MPCC). It aims to help restore people’s hope and dignity and contribute to the preparation of re-settlement in a third country. 

Caz Coleman, Act for Peace, says:

During a visit to Manus Island earlier this year, we met with and heard from a number of men who responded positively to the opportunity to build skills and prepare for eventual re-settlement. After everything that they’ve been through, we aim to offer a program in collaboration with the people of Manus with activities that may help support the men to heal, find purpose, and to better prepare for their own future.”

The type of training proposed has already been shown to work on the island. For example, Sashi* was able to get the training and certification he needed in hospitality to re-engage his skills after five years of not working.  Sashi’s resilience is inspiring. With the skills he has learnt he now wants to mentor other refugees, so they too can better prepare for their own future.

By creating opportunities for the refugee men and local Manusians to come together through community-based activities, this new program will help to foster community harmony.

We’ve been speaking with a number of local businesses, who have expressed interest in providing opportunities for refugees and people seeking asylum, provided we can work with them to offer additional support. This is a real opportunity to enhance positive relationships and cultural understanding between the local Manus Island residents and the refugee and asylum seeker community,” says Caz.

Act for Peace’s local partners on Manus Island is waiting to deliver this practical support and training. Given the groundswell of support already received from the Australian public, Act for Peace is confident that the Australian community will step up to help to launch this initiative and show the men on Manus Island that we are standing with them.  

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

Contact details

Visit the crowdfunding campaign at: https://wecare.actforpeace.org.au/
Interview available with Caz Coleman, Act for Peace
For more information contact: Jess Xavier, Media and Communications Coordinator, Act for Peace
E: jxavier@actforpeace.org.au M: 0401 440 061

 

Further program information

About Act for Peace and the program partnership on Manus Island

Act for Peace is the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, working to promote safety, justice and dignity in communities threatened by conflict and disaster.  Act for Peace works through local organisations in in over 20 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific, providing food, shelter, education, healthcare and training to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Act for Peace works ecumenically, i.e. it works across denominational boundaries. As a result we are proud to be partnering with an ecumenical Agency on Manus Island, the Manus Provincial Council of Churches (MPCC).  Act for Peace met with the Council in January 2018 to explore their willingness and capacity to do more to support the refugee and asylum seeker men on Manus Island.  Their response was overwhelmingly positive and churches have been looking for opportunities to offer more support to the men on Manus for many years.

Working with local partners

Act for Peace believes that local people are best placed to identify the problems faced by their communities and create solutions that work.  Honouring the leadership of local community representatives and drawing on local skills and strengths to inform solutions, Act for Peace partners with local organisations, assisting them to design and implement programs that are most likely to lead to inclusive, lasting positive change.

About the Manus Provincial Council of Churches

The Manus Provincial Council of Churches (MPCC) is an ecumenical agency of churches on Manus Island.  The members of the MPCC include the Catholic Church, Evangelical Community Church, Manus Indigenous Church, Assembly of God Church, United Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Manus Ecumenical Provincial Liaison Officer who liaises with the Manus Island Governor. 

Aside from the Manus government, the Churches are the main support mechanism for the population on Manus.  In partnership with the MPCC, Act for Peace will support and empower the MPCC to provide a more supportive presence to the refugee and asylum seeker men.  Act for Peace will support the MPCC to develop and administer the funds raised to implement the programs and activities they seek to provide in consultation with the men.  A local program co-ordinator will be employed from the MPCC, and the churches will work ecumenically to deliver the program activities.

Context on Manus Island

Act for Peace are aware there are a number of other organisations with expertise and wide networks that are providing phone counselling, medical care, emergency relief goods and legal support.  We aim to support and encourage this work, rather than replicate it.

Aware of the sensitivities around the poverty level and needs of local residents, the program aims to provide opportunities for both refugee men and locals to learn and work together.

More information about the program can be found on the FAQ page.