On Sunday 20 March 2022, Sydney hosted two separate demonstrations with large numbers of people where peace and justice was the order of the day.
Sydney Town Hall hosted about a thousand people venting their anger towards the Federal Government for the way they treat refugees and asylum seekers. And just down the road at Martin Place, there was also a huge number of people, mainly Ukrainian, praying for peace and an end to the conflict brought on by the Russian government.
The Town Hall rally focussed on freeing the Medevac refugees, ending detention and closing the camps. It also focussed on permanent protection and not just temporary visas. On the delicate subject of resettling Afghans in Australia, Mustafa, an Afghan refugee on a temporary visa, reiterated the difficulties currently being faced by all Afghans.
In Afghanistan alone there are fears that 1 million children will die of acute starvation by the end of 2022, and 97% of their population will slip below the poverty line.
Michael Whaites of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association spoke of difficulties that medical people have while trying to assist refugees and asylum seekers.
The demonstrators then marched down to Circular Quay with great fan-fare where they assembled opposite the ferry terminals.
Ian Rintoul, one of the key organisers, then addressed the rally, “We need to put pressure on the government to get rid of mandatory and indefinite detention,” he said.
When questioned about how the Labour Party would approach things, he stated, ”Labour have made a few positive comments but they need to give us more positive steps to make a real difference.”
After many enthusiastic call-outs of “Let them be free!” the crowd disbursed leaving the Quay to its usual tranquil self.
Meanwhile at Martin Place, blue and yellow flags of the country of Ukraine were everywhere to be seen. The serious and sombre atmosphere could be felt all round. People spoke and reflected on the despair of their homeland and their bewilderment of why the Russians were attacking their normally peaceful cities.
Before the speeches began, a small group of musicians played the Ukrainian national anthem. This was followed by the Australian national anthem. There was not a dry eye to be seen anywhere.
“Australia is certainly doing the right things to help with this conflict,” said Anton Bogdanovych, the main speaker at this Ukrainian rally. “We have a direct line to Minister Hawke and have a group that interacts with him all the time.”
While sharing this information he added, “I am pleased to say that today the Australian Prime Minister stated that Ukrainians coming here will have the right to work and earn money and will also have access to Medicare.”
The number of people fleeing their homes in Ukraine is now over 10 million. More than 3.5 million have fled the country as refugees and another 7 million are displaced within Ukraine.
Australia and Ukraine have enjoyed good diplomatic relations since 1942. Ukrainians could start arriving in Australia from this weekend with our government issuing 1,000 visas.
I learned that these Ukrainian demonstrations happen 2 or 3 times every week at Martin Place. Hopefully more Australians will show their support.
On Sunday night at the Camelot Lounge in Marrickville there was a special Ukrainian concert. The music was amazing and featured some international stars like Balkan singer Nadya Golski, Mar’yana Sywak, and Ukrainian Larysa Kovalchuk with her bandura. Also performing was guitarist Steven Lalor and violinist Leo Novikov.
Once again the concert started with the Ukrainian national anthem followed by the Australian national anthem. A very emotional evening.
Thank you Yoran Hallis of Camelot Lounge for letting these amazing musicians use your premises at a time of great need.