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2017 Annual General Meeting and Public Forum

Monday 13 November 2017 , Mercy Centre, 371 Simpsons Rd, Bardon, Qld, 4065

Annual General Meeting  4.00pm-5.00pm

Featuring reports of RCOA’s activities in 2016-17, elections for members of the RCOA Board and opportunities for members to present resolutions. Please see notice of meeting here.

Public Forum – Building an agenda for change: Restoring Australia’s damaged reputation on refugee rights  5.00pm (for 5.30pm) -7.00pm

The United Nations General Assembly has elected Australia to the UN Human Rights Council for three years from January 2018. What changes to Australia’s refugee policy are needed to build international credibility as a Human Rights Council member? And how can Australia respond effectively to the needs of the millions of forcibly displaced people in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond?

A panel of speakers, led by Refugee Council CEO Paul Power, will examine a national agenda for change can be developed and explore options for concerned individuals, organisations and communities.

We look forward to sharing these events and light refreshments. Please RSVP for the AGM and/or Public Forum by emailing admin@refugeecouncil.org.au by Monday 6 November 2017.

Board elections

This year, elections will be held for five positions on the Board – President, Secretary, and three Organisational Member representatives. Those elected will serve a two-year term. Information for Board candidates about the RCOA Board, its role and the organisation’s constitution is available here and strategic plan is available here.  Eligible candidates must fill out a Nomination Form and provide background information to support their candidacy.

Nominations should be received by 5:00pm (AEDT) on Monday 6 November 2017.

Proxy and notice of motion forms

Members unable to attend the AGM can nominate a Proxy to vote on their behalf at the AGM. Members, whether they are able to attend or not, can put forward a Motion.

All forms should be lodged with the RCOA Sydney office by 5:00pm (AEDT) on Monday 6 November 2017.

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2016 Annual General Meeting and Members’ Event

The 2016 Annual General Meeting was kindly hosted by Colin Biggers & Paisley Pty Ltd at their Sydney offices on Monday 14 November at Level 42, 2 Park Street Sydney NSW. Six board positions were up for election – Vice-President, Treasurer, two Organisational Member representatives and two Individual Member representative. RCOA Vice- President William Maley was re-elected for another two years and Adrian Graham was re-elected as Treasurer. Ruth Jacobs (Justice for Refugees SA) and Marc Purcell (ACFID) were duly elected as the two Organisational Member representatives and Lis de Vries and Maya Cranitch as Individual Member representatives. The Board under its capacity then chose to co-opt Beata Ostapiej-Piatkowski (MCS Romero Centre), John Roc (Australian Karen Organisation) and Ella Dixon (Migrant Resource Centre (Northern Tasmania).

Following the AGM, RCOA’s Vice President Prof William Maley launched his latest book ‘What is a Refugee?

2015 Annual General Meeting, Members’ Forum and Public Forum

On Monday 16 November 2015, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) held its Annual General Meeting, Members’ Forum and Public Forum at the Perth Activist Centre, 15/5 Aberdeen St, Perth.

The AGM included a public forum, ‘More than an Australian Solution: Engaging with Asa on Refugee Rights‘, held at the State Library of Western Australia. The forum explored the implications of Australian policy in the Asia-Pacific region. The forum was facilitated by Dr Caroline Fleay and featured the following three panellists:

  • Paul Power, Chief Executive Officer of the Refugee Council of Australia and Board Member of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
  • Sunili Govinnage, Human rights lawyer, The Humanitarian Group, who previously spent seven years as a writer, editor and researcher in Indonesia, and
  • Ashraf Mohammad, who arrived in Australia three years ago having travelled through Indonesia as an asylum seeker.

Elections were also held for five positions on the Board – President, Secretary and three Organisational Member representatives.

2014 Annual General Meeting and Members’ Forum

RCOA’s 2014 Annual General Meeting was held in Melbourne on Monday 24 November at the University of Melbourne. Five board positions were up for election – Vice-President, Treasurer, two Organisational Member representatives and one Individual Member representative. RCOA Vice- President William Maley was re-elected for another two years and Nga Kwan was re-elected as Treasurer. Board members Lis De Vries (Australian Red Cross) and Bobby Whitfield (ProEmpowerment and Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia) were elected as Organisational Member representatives and Sonia Caton (Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office) was elected as an Individual Member representative.

RCOA hosted a public forum on ‘Asylum Seekers and Protection at Sea’. Speakers included:

  • Erika Feller, Vice Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne, who from 2005 to 2013, was UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection
  • Mustafa, a former refugee from Afghanistan, who shared observations based on his own journey to Australia by boat
  • Dr Antje Missbach, Research Fellow, School of Social Sciences, Monash University, who is investigating causes of and responses to people smuggling in Indonesia, and
  • Associate Professor Michelle Foster, Director, International Refugee Law Research Program, Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School.

An overview of the Forum can be read here.

2013 Annual General Meeting and Members’ Forum

RCOA’s 2013 Annual General Meeting was held in Canberra on Tuesday 26 November.

The AGM included a Members’ Forum featuring Richard Towle, Regional Representative, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Professor Pene Mathew, Freilich Foundation Professor, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University.

2012 AGM and Members’ Forum

RCOA’s 2012 Annual General Meeting was held in Adelaide on Tuesday 13 November.

Five board positions were up for election. Professor William Maley was re-elected Vice-President and Sonia Caton (RAILS) and Bobby Whitfield (ProEmpowerment International) were re-elected as Organisation Members. Two new Board members were elected – Nga Kwan as Treasurer and Lis de Vries as Individual Member Representative.

The AGM was followed by a members’ forum on the implications of the report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers and on issues for the Australian Government to consider in planning the 2013-14 Refugee and Humanitarian Program, with presentations from Phil Glendenning (President), Professor William Maley (Vice-President) and Dr Ali Nur (Board member and Director of the Melaleuca Refugee Centre, Darwin).

In 2011, RCOA Board began reviewing the organisation’s constitution to consider which provisions needed updating to bring it into line with current practice and with the RCOA 2010-15 strategic plan. The constitution is available here.

2011 AGM, Public Forum & Members’ Forum

The 2011 Annual General Meeting was held in Sydney on Wednesday 23 November at Friends House in Surry Hills. Five board positions were up for election – President, Secretary and three Organisational Member representatives. RCOA President John Gibson was re-elected for another two years and board member Judyth Watson was elected as Secretary. Board members Phil Glendenning (Edmund Rice Centre) and Melika Sheikh-Eldin (AMES Victoria) were re-elected as Organisational Member representatives and Fr Maurizio Pettana (Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office) joined the board as the third representative.

To celebrate our 30th anniversary, RCOA hosted a public forum on the topic Australia’s Refugee Policy 1981 and 2011. Speakers included Ian MacPhee, Minister for Immigration in 1981; John Menadue, Secretary of the Department of Immigration in 1981; and Dr Tien Nguyen, former President of the Vietnamese Community Association who arrived in Australia from a refugee camp in South East Asia during 1980-81.

The AGM was followed by an RCOA members’ forum, at which Dr Wendy Southern, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, delivered an address on the topic Onshore Processing – The Way Forward.

2010 AGM and Public Forum

RCOA held its 2010 AGM and Public Forum in Brisbane on Tuesday, November 16. Five board positions were up for election, with existing board members returned to each position for another two years – Professor William Maley (Vice-President), Lionel Conyer (Treasurer), Maureen Adamson (individual member representative), Sonia Caton and Bobby Whitfield (organisational member representatives).

Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship, delivered a speech at the AGM in which she commended the work of RCOA as providing “a social dividend from which all Australians benefit.”

As the first RCOA AGM to be held in Queensland, the meeting provided an opportunity to share information and canvass views on critical refugee settlement and asylum policy issues with our Queensland-based members and supporters.  At the two public forums held prior to and after the AGM, discussions focused on refugee settlement issues, as part of RCOA’s annual consultations on the Refugee and Humanitarian Program; and key challenges in asylum policy, including immigration detention policies and international discussions regarding an Asia-Pacific regional refugee protection framework. On the Monday evening prior to the AGM, an additional consultation was held to gather feedback on a range of issues from refugee communities and service providers in Brisbane.

2009 AGM and Public Forum

RCOA’s 2009 AGM and Public Forum was held on November 17 at Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub, with the nature of Australia’s engagement with Indonesia on asylum seeker issues and the question of post-arrival cultural orientation for refugees explored at public forums held in conjunction with the AGM.

Five board positions were up for election, with existing board members returned to each position for another two years – John Gibson (president), Sky de Jersey (secretary), Dr Melika Sheikh-Eldin, Paris Aristotle and Jenny Semple. Motions moved at the AGM included a call for the Australian Government to make an immediate allocation of 500 additional resettlement places and a call for the needs of people in protracted refugee situations in Africa and elsewhere not to be forgotten in discussions about Australia’s resettlement priorities.

Speakers at the public forum on regional cooperation were Professor James Hathaway (Melbourne University Law School), Dr Savitri Taylor, (La Trobe University) and Dr Elizabeth Biok (RCOA Board), while those speaking on cultural orientation for refugees were Haileluel Gebre-Selassie (2008 Churchill Fellow), Annerose Reiner (Foundation House) and Margaret Neil (ACCES Services Inc). A synopsis of the forum can be downloaded here.

2008 AGM and Public Forum

RCOA’s retiring Chairperson, Barbara Young AO, was awarded life membership of the organisation at the 2008 AGM held at Parramatta Town Hall. Chairperson for eight years (including the previous five), Ms Young served on the RCOA Board for 16 years as a representative of Austcare.  At the AGM, two new board members were elected – Bobby Whitfield, from Queensland African Communities Council, and Sonia Caton, from Refugee and Immigration Legal Service in Brisbane, replacing two board members who did not seek re-election, Grant Mitchell and Monsignor John Murphy. Ms Young’s position as Chairperson was filled by Esta Paschalidis-Chilas.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, was a guest speaker at the public forum.  Invited to speak on Australian refugee policy one year after the election of the Rudd Government, Senator Evans outlined both the changes which had occurred in 12 months (such as offshore detention, temporary protection and approaches to detention) and the growing list of policies potentially up for review (including work rights for asylum seekers and complementary protection).

The Minister’s speech (available on our Speeches page) included several announcements on: the resettlement of 5000 Bhutanese refugees; the transition of 120 people on Temporary Humanitarian Concern visas (subclass 786) to permanent visas as part of the abolition of the Temporary Protection Visa; a resolution of the issue of detention debts; and the establishment of an Onshore Protection Consultative Group to provide input into asylum policy reforms.

The Minister also announced the Government was “having a comprehensive look at the fundamentals of our humanitarian program”, including reviewing the link between the offshore and onshore aspects of the program.

He also revealed that the cost of operating the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres was $309.8 million over 6½ years.

AGM forum topics in previous years

2007 – “Australia’s Refugee Resettlement Program: Where is the debate headed?” Speakers: Ajang Biar, Sudanese community leader, Sydney; Dr Melika Sheikh-Eldin, Manager, IHSS Settlement Partnerships, AMES Victoria; and Kevin Liston, Director, Australian Refugee Association, Adelaide.

2006 – “Refugee Resettlement: How effective is Australia’s contribution?” Guest speaker: Vincent Cochetel, Head of Resettlement, UNHCR (Geneva). The forum, on the 25th anniversary of RCOA’s first public meeting, also reflected on a quarter century of changes in Australian refugee policy.

2005 – “Australia’s Detention Regime: What do the recent changes mean?” Convened by Grant Mitchell, Director of Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project, with four speakers: Garry Fleming, Assistant Director, Detention Policy and Coordination, Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs; Noel Clement, Australian Red Cross; Marion Le, migration agent and advocate, and a former detainee, who reflected on the changes from the perspective of a refugee.

2004 – “African Refugees: Meeting the Challenges” A public forum with a panel of speakers: Deeqo Omar, Somali settlement worker; James Chol, Sudanese community member; Senator Marise Payne; Robyn Bicket, Department of Immigration; Sarah Elliott, aid worker; Melissa Phillips, Anglicare.

2003 – “When is it Safe to Return” Speakers: Michel Gabaudan, Regional Representative, UNHCR (Canberra); Professor William Maley, Australian Pacific College of Diplomacy, Australian National University; and Major Gen. Mike Smith, CEO, Austcare. Chaired by Janelle Saffin, Member of NSW Legislative Council

2002 – “Business for Refugees?” Speakers: Neville Roach AO, chairman of Fujitsu Australia and former chairman of the Council for Multicultural Australia; and Tony Hewson, Manager of Human Resources, Burrangong Meatworks, Young NSW. Chaired by journalist Julie Macken.

2001 – “Refugees in the Media”. Speakers: Claire Harvey, Journalist, The Australian; Greg Wilesmith, Head of Policy and Program Development, ABC News and Current Affairs; and Catharine Lumby, Director, Media Studies Centre, University of Sydney.

2000 – “Behind the Boat Arrivals”. Speakers: Jenny Bedlington, Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; Dr William Maley, Department of Politics, Australian Defence Force Academy; Professor Amin Saikal, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University.

1999 – “Challenges for the New Millennium”. Speakers: Ellen Hansen, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Nick Poynder, barrister; Esta Paschalidis and Tarik Abdulhak, Canterbury-Bankstown Migrant Resource Centre.

1998 – Keynote address by the Hon. Dr Peter Nygh, Acting Principal Member, Refugee Review Tribunal.

1997 – Keynote address by Chris Sidoti, Human Rights Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

1996 – Keynote address by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

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