Self organising: group success in Margaret River

The Margaret River local group just had their council unanimously pledge their support for the ‘No Business in Abuse’ campaign. Read more about their inspiring organising!

So what happened?

On 7 May, the Amnesty Margaret River group set up a pop-up internet stall outside Settlers Tavern in Margaret River. Over the next seven Saturdays, they aimed to collect 1,000 signatures for their No Business in Abuse pledge, which commits organisations to reject doing business that profits from practices which violate the rights of asylum seekers. They partnered with GetUp to work on this campaign in the lead-up to World Refugee Day, which celebrates the positive contribution refugees have made to Australian society.

The group aimed to deliver their pledges to the Augusta-Margaret River Shire at their council meeting on 22 June.

With this plan in place, the group hit the ground running, collecting 102 signatures at their first pop-up stall. They posted the pledge on their facebook page, invited community members along to the council meeting, and collaborated with a number of other local and regional organisations in order to amplify their voices. Their partner groups included the Uniting Church, Tige Le House, the Margaret River professional social workers collective, the Margaret River Environment Centre and the Margaret River chamber of Commerce.

Rod Whittle, a committed long-term Amnesty member of over 23 years, led the delegation to the council meeting to deliver the signatures alongside the Margaret River group convenor. Rod spoke passionately about the “overwhelming evidence which indicates severe and systematic abuse of asylum seekers. And the human rights abuses which are occurring within Australia’s immigration processing system, raising real and increasing public concern about conditions and procedures”.

Cathie Lambert also spoke passionately:

“We cannot claim to be a Welcome Refugee Zone while staying silent to the abuse that asylum seekers are facing daily in our detention centres.”

Pam Townsend, Ian Earl and Rod reminded the council that “The immigration system is administered in contravention of the obligations of all business enterprises to respect fundamental human rights as set out within the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls on ‘every individual and every organ of society’ to promote and respect human rights. Local councils are important institutions in our community, and should lead by example in encouraging responsible business practices and the adherence to human rights standards. By adopting the resolution, Council will demonstrate it endorses principled business practices that respect basic rights.”

And they made a difference!

The shire council agreed with these statements, and passed a unanimous ‘yes’ vote to the No Business in Abuse pledge. The shire pledged to reject doing business with companies that profit from Australia’s detention regime, and agreed in principle not to make a profit out of the detention of refugees. They agreed to only support and contract companies, institutions and organisations that refuse to profit from the system of offshore detention and practices that violate the rights of asylum seekers.

Rod, Pam, Ian, Cathie and the whole Margaret River group did a fantastic job getting this motion passed, which will make a real change in their community.

You can read more about the No Business in Abuse pledge and find out how to get involved here.