A passionate group of Newcastle advocates have resumed their weekly vigil at Civic Park to raise awareness around refugee rights.
"It's unacceptable to treat human beings the way Australia does," Coordinator of the Grandmothers for Refugees Marion Gevers told the Newcastle Herald.
"Especially when these people have no choice but to flee war or persecution or the threat of death."
With a family history of immigration from Belgium to England and France, eventually coming to Australia herself, Ms Gevers said as well as being "immoral" Australia's policy of offshore and mainland detention is "wasteful".
"We have spent billions torturing these people instead of welcoming them and helping them become healthy and productive tax paying people who aren't traumatised for life."
Ms Gevers said along with issues of offshore and mainland detention, the grandmothers are raising awareness around recent conflict in Afghanistan.
"We have a petition with us to increase the number of humanitarian visas for Afghans who have helped Australia over the last 20 years but have been forgotten," she said.
"Because of the weather and being our first time back we've only received five or six signatures today."
Usually a familiar sight at the pedestrian crossing across from City Hall, Grandmothers for Refugees has had to put a pause on their weekly vigil since August because of COVID. This is only the second time since their inception in February 2016 that the grandmothers have had to take a break and Ms Gevers said while there's still a long way to go, awareness is growing in Newcastle.
"We have a sign encouraging people to blow their horn in support of the cause. When we first started I only got about 30 honks but before lockdown I had to start using a counter because the maximum we got was 329 honks in one hour," she said.
"I've been very impressed because we received 203 toots or thumbs up on our first day back."
Ms Gevers said it "feels good to be back" and she is looking forward to weekly vigils again.
"International human rights day is December 10 so we wanted to have a few vigils before that day."
IN THE NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: