November 26th, 2022Last ‘toot’ in January for RARD’s 20 years
RURAL Australians for Refugees Daylesford – the group perhaps best
known for its “toots for refugees” vigil at the top roundabout in
Daylesford every Friday from 5pm – is finishing up in January after
20 years of supporting refugees detained around Australia and beyond.
Long-time member Janet Gaden said the decision came after the active group
numbers had dwindled to about 10 – despite an email list of 40.
“The stalwarts are getting older and less well and are, frankly, tired. We started
RARD 20 years ago and have been very active all that time.
“Our struggle to get Australia to deal humanely, legally and generously toward
people who approach us for help as asylum seekers and refugees has been a long haul.
“The change of (federal) government, with some better policies, is an advance,
but even they cannot make a quick fix to this problem and will need support
and reminding. The number of people on various restrictive visas needing aid is
increasing. It is still a long haul.
“Twenty is a good round number of years. After our last vigil on Friday, January
6, 2023 (5-5.30, top of Vincent Street) Rural Australians for Refugees Daylesford will
go into honourable retirement.”
Ms Gaden said RARD began in 2002, holding regular meetings with bring-a-plate suppers at St Matthews, Hepburn that were well attended and run by Rosalind Berry.
“Members repeatedly visited detainees in Baxter, Port Hedland and Maribyrnong,
taking crocheted blankets, snacks and small gifts. We kept in touch with some people
after their release.”
Ms Gaden said the group had raised money in many ways and through various
First up were two art exhibitions with a silent auction with small canvases bought
“The first was works by local people and the second by invitation to people well
known in other fields such as Phillip Adams, Fay White, Emma Ayres, and others.
We raised money for the new Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne – where
we also took donations of food.
“And every year we have held street stalls during Christmas and Refugee Week for
20 years with petitions and postcards sent to politicians, raffles and items for sale to
raise money and books of messages sent to asylum seekers.
“We also sent shoe boxes of small gifts for children through the ASRC to
detention centres at Christmas Island, Nauru, Manus, Papua New Guinea.”
Ms Gaden said larger events included a Daylesford Town Hall meeting with
Labor for Refugees with speakers including Julian Burnside, Labor politicians,
activists and journalists.
Other events were a concert by refugee musicians in Daylesford’s Senior Citizens
Rooms, a town hall event with Arnold Zable, film nights, Actors for Refugees
performances in Words in Winter and a campaign to get Hepburn Shire Council to
declare the shire a Refugee Welcome Zone which was passed by the council in 2005.
Other events included a commemorative tree with plaque in the Lost Children’s
Park, an ASRC Food Box in the foyer of town hall, letter writing bees in Stanbridge
Hall and picnics at Jubilee Lake for refugees brought from Melbourne by ASRC.
The group took part in the New Year’s Eve and Chillout parades in Daylesford
with Peter Tyndall’s “Trucking on”, a tiny RARD truck, in the virtual parade during
The last major event was a street stall for the 2022 Refugee Week.
Ms Gaden said anyone who wanted to contribute to the work ahead should
contact active groups in Trentham at email@example.com and Ballarat at
People can contribute financially, as RARD has done, to the ASRC, Rural
Australians for Refugees national (RAR), and Refugee Legal, through their websites.
Words: Contributed | Images: Kyle Barnes