2016 has been another busy and successful year for DASSAN. The year started on a high following a well-deserved award for DASSAN at the NT Human Rights Awards (The Fitzgeralds) in December 2015. This award was public recognition for the thousands of hours our volunteers contribute to supporting asylum seekers and fighting for their rights.
With the continuing growth of DASSAN, the Strategic Group began the process of reviewing our Strategic plan under the skillful guidance of Laurent de Schoutheete. This can be a difficult, tedious process for any organisation but Laurent kept the group focused and a new structure for DASSAN was achieved. Our first AGM was scheduled for mid-year to coincide with DASSAN’s 6th anniversary.
Part of DASSAN’s key role has been visiting people in immigration detention in Darwin. Many of us have been making the long drive to Wickham Point to visit clients and friends. The announcement in the May Federal budget of Wickham Point’s closure caused not only further stress to those in detention but sadness for us saying goodbye to people we have been visiting. The only consolation was the reassurance from our Advocacy Coordinator, Natasha Blucher, that the detention centres people were moving to had much better facilities than Wickham Point.
We would like to thank all the advocates for their dedication to the people detained in Wickham Point. For every hour spent at the detention centre, advocates would spend many more hours contacting lawyers, the Immigration Department and other organisations on behalf of people who were detained. Many positive outcomes have resulted from all this hard work.
We would also like to thank all the friendly visitors who showed people in detention that compassion exists on the other side of the razor wire and that they have a right to safety and freedom. A special thanks to Michelle Boyle for doing such a great job of coordinating the friendly visitors program.
The closure of Wickham Point put into question the future of DASSAN. What would be our role with no detention centre on our doorstep? With a significant number of asylum seekers living in Darwin on bridging visas it was determined DASSAN still had a role to play. We began to focus our energy on assisting people with protection visa applications and providing support and advocacy to those not receiving case management from other organisations.
The uncertainty facing DASSAN was compounded with our Advocacy Coordinator Tash Blucher advising us she would not be renewing her contract and would be finishing in September. Tash Blucher has been a dynamo of energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and determination. Her achievements in just 12 months have been unbelievable and the Annual Report produced for the AGM to gives a true perspective of how lucky we were to have Tash working for us.
Then Justine Davis and Janine Sims also advised they would not be nominating for the new Board at the AGM. DASSAN without these three dynamic women seemed unthinkable! Justine and Janine have indeed been the backbone of DASSAN since its inception, ably assisted by other long-term volunteers.
August witnessed our first AGM which proceeded seamlessly and with all Board positions filled under the very capable hands of our new President Laurent de Schoutheete. The remainder of the evening was spent in celebration of DASSAN and in particular thanks and recognition of Justine and Tash who had contributed so much in terms of time, dedication and energy. While Justine remains involved with DASSAN (but not to the intense level of the past 6 years),Tash is continuing her advocacy for asylum seekers by taking over Pamela Currs’ position at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne. We wish them both well.
It was fortuitous for DASSAN that we were able to secure Sandra Bartlett as our new Coordinator. Sandra was involved with DASSAN as an advocate prior to taking up a position on Nauru. The transition from Tash to Sandra occurred smoothly and Sandra has proven herself to be a very capable Coordinator.
Finally to conclude the loop, Justine’s contribution to the asylum seeker cause was recognised this month as the individual winner in the Justice category at the Human Rights Awards. This award was well and truly deserved and a great way to finish another successful year for DASSAN.
Looking forward in 2017
2017 will present ongoing challenges for DASSAN. Asylum seekers on temporary protection visas face an uncertain future and the announcement of the US deal to take asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus poses more questions than it suggests answers.
A major function of DASSAN moving in to 2017 will be engaging the wider community in discussions about asylum seekers in order to create space for a more informed conversation about human rights, international law and asylum seekers coming to Australia seeking protection. We will also continue our ongoing advocacy and support of asylums seekers living the local community, as well as our systemic advocacy in the form of lobbying the Territory and Federal government, engaging the media, writing submissions and joining national campaigns. We will continue to call for an end to offshore processing and an end to temporary protection.
A big thank you!
As a grassroots organisation, DASSAN is only as good as the volunteers who make our achievements possible. Many people put in a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to ensure the success of the organisation. A big vote of thanks goes to members of the media and advocacy group as well as Michelle Pollard who looks after our Facebook page. Our stall coordinators, Carmel, Cathy, Gabby and Lorna deserve special recognition for ensuring we have volunteers every week at the Nightcliff markets to interact with the public. Stall volunteers bust myths about asylum seekers, raise awareness of the hardships that they face offshore, in Australian detention centres and on temporary visas in our community and lift the profile of DASSAN in the community by discussing who we are, what we stand for and what we do.
A special mention must also go to Richard who has maintained a weekly vigil outside Wickham Point until its closure, and continues a vigil outside the Immigration Offices in Darwin. Richard is often the sole participant at these vigils and his tenacity and perseverance in the face of hostile government policies is a source of continuing inspiration.
We would like to thank Peter Jones and Wendy Edison from The Uniting Church in Australia – Northern Synod for assisting with payroll for DASSAN’s one paid position. On that note we would like to thank Unions NT for their continuing support and the donation of an office in their building that continues to be the workspace for our Coordinator.
Thank you to everyone who supported “A place to call home” by donating or delivering furniture and providing social support to asylum seekers in the Darwin community and a big thanks to Clare Scarce who organised the Dance of DASSAN fundraising event.
There are too many individuals to list, we would not be able to do what we do without the support of so many community members. There are also several organisations we would also like to thank: GetUp; Groove Café; The Human Rights Law Centre; Joanne McCrum Design; Nightcliff Uniting Church; NTCOSS; Refugee Advice and Casework Service; Salvos Legal; Trailer Boat Club; UNHCR Australia; the ASRC; and the Uniting Church Synod.
Finally, a big thank you to all our donors. A special thanks to Nick Bland, the Law Society NT and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.
Thank you all for keeping the DASSAN banner afloat!
We look forward to continuing our work with you in the coming year.
DASSAN welcomes all people who support asylum seekers to join with us – there are many ways you can take action and get involved.
Until we are all free, none of us are free
Happy holidays and best wishes
The DASSAN Team