Campaign update: My New Neighbour refugee campaign gaining strength

In just three short months Amnesty Australia’s new refugee campaign, ‘My New Neighbour’, has gone from strength to strength, revealing the true power behind local grassroots activism.

My New Neighbour campaign

The My New Neighbour campaign is a neighbourhood-led solution to help refugees – people who are seeking to rebuild their lives somewhere safe. It’s all about people power and giving communities the opportunity to lead the change from within.

We hit the streets just three months ago and already activists across the country have been building public support that cannot be ignored by our political leaders. Even though it’s still early in the campaign the wins are coming in thick and fast.

Here’s what we’ve achieved so far.

man and woman smile with council chambers in the background
Mayor Cuc Lam and Victoria Branch President Mario Santos. © AI
  1. Hard work and dedication from staff, volunteers, activists and supporters means that to date, 10 councils have stood with refugees and passed unanimous motions in support of community sponsorship.
  2. Maribyrnong City Council unanimously supported the community sponsorship motion proposed by Mayor Cuc Lam, a former refugee who fled to Australia from Vietnam. Mayor Lam called on the Federal Government to step up and ensure that the intake of refugees under community sponsorship is above and beyond any existing humanitarian or visa quotas and to lower the program’s prohibitive visa fees.
  3. Fremantle City Council also unanimously supported the call for expanding and improving the Australian Government’s current refugee community sponsorship program. The Council acknowledged the work of activists and the importance they play in our communities. Councilor Sam Wainwright said: “You don’t shut your door to people who are running for their lives.”

    Four women in centre wearing tshirts saying welcome refugees, with two men on either side
    Left to right: Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, Fremantle Amnesty group convener Libby Williams and group members Rachel Cowcher, Helen O’Brien, Jasmine Ruscoe with Councilor Sam Wainwright.
  4. In a fantastic show of support for welcoming refugees
    three councils – Albury,Wodonga and Wagga Wagga – simultaneously passed motions, marking a significant moment in Australia’s response to the global refugee situation. Australians want better solutions and councils like these are leading the way. 
  5. We even got a shout-out on Twitter from Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Wei Wei after our amazing Maroochydore Group in Queensland screened his new documentary, ‘Human Flow’ and tweeted about it.

How you’re helping

A screenshot from Twitter that shows a retweet by Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei of Amnesty Refugee Campaigner Shankar Kasynathan.

Early in the campaign almost 12,000 Australians signed our petition calling on the Australian Government to expand and improve community sponsorship for refugees so that more families can rebuild their lives in safety.

As a result, in March this year the ACT Government passed a motion calling on the Federal Government to expand the refugee community sponsorship program.

We couldn’t have done that without your support.

And thank you to our amazing activists across the country for their persistence, hard work and passion for refugee rights. These wins will continue to grow. But the work does not stop with the councils already supporting us – it’s important that we continue to bring our communities with us on the journey.

What’s next?

As the campaign heats up, we’ll be casting our net beyond councils to other leaders in our community: our teachers, local businesses and sporting heroes. We look forward to hearing more voices raised loudly and proudly to welcome refugees.

The Western Bulldogs have added their support and voice to the campaign by calling for more community-led programs like community sponsorship. This is in addition to their great work in helping to resettle refugees in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Check out this video about their resettlement work and community sponsorship. Who will be next to join the call?

Want to get involved? Add your name to our petition today and call for fairer refugee sponsorship across Australia.