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Issue #1738      July 6, 2016


Refugee Week is marked in June. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR says conflicts and persecution raised the total number of refugees and internally displaced people to a record 65.3 million at the end of last year. World leaders are urged to end the wars that are causing people to leave their countries. “I hope that the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: We need action, political action, to stop conflicts,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The message that they have carried is this: ‘If you don’t solve problems, problems will come to you.’ ” More than half of all refugees come from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. More than a million people came to Europe last year, causing a political crisis in the European Union. The countries which were quick to support the “coalition of the willing” to destroy other people’s homes and livelihoods were not quite prepared to face the consequences of their actions. Mr Grandi called on countries to fight xenophobia and decried both physical barriers – like fences on the borders of some European countries as well as legislative ones which limit access to EU states.

A white 10-storey building wall on the corner of Harbour and Goulburn Streets (near Chinese Gardens) in Sydney is a huge canvass for a mural depicting Aboriginal Elder Jenny Munro. Jenny Munro founded the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Redfern to protest against new developments on the block. It stayed there for 15 months and ended when the state government promised to build new housing for Indigenous families. The mural was painted by Matt Adnate. It took him five days to do it and the result is striking. The mural is part of a project to celebrate inspiring local people. It’s hard to find a more inspiring local figure than Jenny Munro who keeps on fighting for the rights of poor people – be it Aboriginal or not.

The Baird government in NSW had to backtrack on the decision by the NSW Trustee & Guardian to impose a new annual fee of up to $12,000 on 3,526 elderly and disabled clients. It’s the current number of people whose affairs are being managed (mainly) by family members. A letter demanding the family members sign within 14 days was sent to all. The money was supposed to be paid to Scottish-based insurer Aviva. The government argues that the fee will cover insurance to protect the vulnerable from being “ripped off” by family members. The Trustee & Guardian already charge annual fees to check account keeping. Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch said: “Summarily demanding bonds from people who had been successfully managing the affairs of loves ones for decades is outrageous.” He said the scheme was badly designed and inflexible. At the moment the policy is being reviewed after a backlash. The letter should not be signed either.

Next article – Culture & Life – Africa’s ticking time-bomb

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