The Armidale branch of Rural Australians for Refugees gathered in Beardy Street Mall on Monday to garner signatures for a petition protesting the continuation of Australia's mandatory immigration detention policy.
"It's the eighth anniversary of Kevin Rudd declaring that nobody who sought asylum by boat would be resettled in Australia," said RARA Armidale member Bar Finch.
"So we wrote to Barnaby asking that he withdraw the policy.
"In just one hour today, we got more than 40 signatures, and we are going to keep protesting it forever - until we die."
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To illustrate how long 8 years is, the group created a banner featuring the stories of refugees and what has happened to them in that time, contrasting it with three local people and what has gone on in their lives during the same period.
"There was quite a bit of interest, and passers-by agreed to sign the petition and said how awful to be locked up when you haven't committed any crime," Ms Finch said.
"We also speculated what the last 8 years could look like if the policy was changed.
"We outlined the life of an imaginary refugee who arrived by boat in 2013 into a better Australia.
"They were processed, given health checks and security checks, and then moved into the community, had English lessons, did an apprenticeship with TAFE, got a trade, is now married with a child, is paying tax, and is becoming an Australian citizen. But we know that is fanciful.
"Eight years is a long time in a person's life."
The group is linked in with the national organisation and similar events have been happening all around the country.
"We are all doing it differently but we are all doing it to call on the Australian Government to end the offshore arrangements with PNG and Nauru; bring the remaining refugees to safety; provide safe resettlement options for all those still in limbo, including those already transferred to Australia; and accept the New Zealand Resettlement Offer," Ms Finch said.
"Rural people organise differently to city people and many of us in the country think these refugees could fit in beautifully in our towns as we have seen with the Ezidis in Armidale."
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