What grassroots activism achieved for the movement in 2016

Amnesty International Australia’s Organising Team has been working with thousands of grassroots activists across the country in 2016 to build a stronger, more resourceful activist base. We’ve been developing the skills of our existing and future activist leaders in readiness for our 2020 vision work.

Here are some highlights of what we’ve achieved in 2016:

We engaged with the country’s leaders

Our activists are in regular contact with politicians by post, email and social media to discuss Amnesty’s human rights work. This year our activists have handed petitions and reports directly to ministers, including the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this year.

Activists stepped up to influence QLD laws by writing submissions and helped bring about changes to the Youth Justice Act, getting 17 year olds out of adult prisons, and the announcement of a QLD Human Rights Act.

Our Tasmanian Refugee Group held a forum during Refugee Week in collaboration with RESULTS International in which three MP’s attended: Nick McKim (the Australian Greens) Andrew Wilkie (Independent) and Lisa Singh (ALP).

Amnesty's Eastern Suburbs local group in a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. © Private
Malcolm in the middle: the Prime Minister says he is on board for creating a fairer Australia for Indigenous kids.

We set up a new Regional Peer Support Network

A network of regional and remote local groups from across Victoria was established this year. The activist-led Peer Support network, allows many of our remote groups to regularly share knowledge and support.

Chloe Clarke, the Convener of our Goulburn Valley Group, will be helping to coordinate the network and its looking to include other states in 2017. It’s been a great boost to our regional media and partnership opportunities and we’re looking forward to seeing what 2017 holds!

We held Social Change Labs and skill-share training

For the first time in Victoria, two Social Change Labs were held in 2016. Social Change Labs are Amnesty events with high-profile guest speakers on human rights topics and group discussions. More than 50 lead activists were in attendance at each Victoria event, with half from regional groups. At one event we wrote 19 letters to 8 different federal members. Three of them responded directly in support for our Community is Everything campaign work.

In NSW we held four Social Change Labs (there is another on the 10th Dec), where around 70 activists came together to share experiences, develop new skills and build relationships. In 2017, these events will be better than ever!

Amnesty Western Australia held their first activist skill-share training day in 2016, and it was a success with 30 people attending sessions run by activists, on topics like MP engagement, running successful events and creative activism. Keep an eye on the Events page for more events in your state.

We reached new audiences through the TAFE Project

This year the Activism Support Coordinator in Victoria worked with Holmesglen TAFE course coordinators to design an intensive human rights-based course. 40 students doing the Diploma of Community Services completed eight projects as part of this, including refugee workshops and speaker forums.

In the beginning of this pilot project, the majority of students felt that government’s refugee policies were right and necessary – by the end of the 15-week intensive course, 85 per cent of the students had changed their minds. The development of a TAFE Network and a TAFE Conference is planned for 2017.

Children and activists at an Amnesty NSW schools conference
© Amnesty International

We brought human rights issues to schools and universities

The Victorian Schools Conference 2016 was attended by 60 students from 12 schools across Victoria. There was a full day of speakers and workshops from Julian Burnside to AIME. Students did strategic planning of campaign activities they could do at school.

The WA Schools Conference on Refugee Rights was attended by over 50 students from 5 different schools. The kids all participated in debates about refugee rights and heard from guest speaker Ali-Raza Yusafzai from Pakistan, who arrived in Australia by boat as an asylum seeker in 2013.

This year, Amnesty’s NSW schools team went above and beyond. On top of an impressive year of school visits, they also organised three schools conferences to bring students together for workshops, skill development and brainstorming.

The Universities Conference in Victoria was well attended by over 100 university students. These uni groups held their own workshops and activities and heard from Asher Hirsch from the Refugee Council and Uncle Kelvin Onus-King from the Aboriginal Family Planning Network.

We trained leaders and formed new partnerships

We’ve built stronger leadership teams within the Refugee, Womens’ Rights, University, AmUnity, Speakers and Schools Networks in Victoria.

The Conveners of these Networks have been trained as trainers and a number of our leaders have taken Amnesty training to partnership organisations like Rural Australians for Refugees, Yarra Ranges Council, and Probus Clubs.

Up in Queensland, the Lady Cilento vigil at the beginning of the year saw us partnering with other community leaders and organisations including Australians Against Capital Punishment, Indigenous leaders all over Queensland and various Brisbane refugee advocacy groups.

We increased visibility within our communities

WA honk-a-thon hits the press. © AI

Hundreds of events are run by our activists every year. Many vigils, marches and actions aimed at blocking the lifetime ban on refugees were held all across the country. The Fremantle Action group participated in the Fremantle parade to encourage the Labor party to block the lifetime ban on refugees. Many regional groups partnered with their local Rural Australian for Refugees colleagues to run similar actions across the country.

Honk-a-thons (asking cars to honk if they agree with an issue) are a thing! The Tasmanian Refugee group have held regular honk-a-thons throughout the year, raising awareness on key issues.

The Crisis Response Network WA in partnership with the Curtin Uni group and Indigenous rights group also orchestrated monthly honk-a-thon stunts. The event placed pressure on the WA Premier to keep youth justice particularly for Indigenous young people on his agenda.

Amnesty International WA’s first ever Human Rights Night Market was held in March and featured stalls and live entertainment and gave information to people attending on how they can get involved in Perth’s Human Rights Network.

The Long Walk 2016. © AI
The Long Walk 2016. © A

NSW groups were involved in Vivid Sydney this year, holding an art exhibition around the theme of childhood, and a panel with Aboriginal artists. They were both brilliant events which took a lot of hard work from activist Alicia Jooste and inspired new audiences to get involved and think critically about the art, expression, Indigenous talent, social change and activism.

And finally, we participated again this year for the second time in The Long Walk, an event which attracts hundreds of thousands of people to raise awareness of racial discrimination in AFL football.

2016 Milestones

Three groups celebrated significant milestones this year:

  • The Warrnambool group’s 30th birthday
  • The Manly group’s 30th birthday
  • The Bendigo Group’s 40th


Was there a milestone that your group achieved that we didn’t mention? Leave your comment below!

What supporters are saying

  1. Joyce Mitchell
    10 December 2016 | 10:51 pm

    Once upon a time man fought hand to hand for the ownership of land
    The winners had the right to stay, the losers simply walked away
    Not any more, as we all know, wars are fought by remote control
    No one on earth can stand their ground, every living soul is bound
    To flee, to search in vain for sanctity on someone else’s territory
    Those who assumed the Right to Rule say ‘Sorry but our place is full’
    As a wave of Human misery is breaking like a great tsunami
    World leaders gather to dispute who should play King Canute
    I say ‘Play God, lead them to the land of milk and honey
    Put them on a plane with pockets full of money
    Bound for Australia where they can be assisted Immigrants like me
    I’ve been there, done that, so I know
    Australia is a no-mans land where anyone can go
    There, no one has the Right to Rule you
    Unless of course you let them fool you.

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