The Rural Australians for Refugees Daylesford (RARD) have decided to wind up.

Spokesperson Heather Mutimer said, “Recently a decision was made for RARD to windup due to a number of factors, but primarily due to the fact that the core active members are growing older and experiencing health issues of varying degrees.”

Probably their most enduring and well known activity has been the weekly Friday Vigil ‘Toot for Refugees’ in Vincent Street, which began in 2018 and continues until this day. The last RARD vigil at the roundabout will take place on Friday the 6th of January at 5 pm.

Many organisations in Hepburn Shire are struggling as a result of ageing memberships and decreased volunteerism.  Across Australia community events are being cancelled and emergency services are struggling to cope as the number of volunteers plummets. There has been a long-term decline in volunteering rates which has been amplified by the COVID pandemic according to research by Volunteering Australia.

RARD has been active for two decades. It began in 2002, holding regular meeting with bring-a-plate suppers at St Matthews in Hepburn.

Members visited detainees in Baxter, Port Headland and Maribyrnong on a number of occasions, bringing blankets, snacks and small gifts. Contact with refugees was maintained after their release.

RARD held art exhibitions, food bank collections and street stalls to raise funds.

Large public meetings were held in the Town Hall. Speakers included Julian Burnside and a range of politicians, activists and journalists. Other events included concerts. film nights and garage sales.

RARD has struggled to get Australia to deal humanely, legally and generously toward people who approach us for help as asylum seekers and refugees. They see the change of government in Canberra as a an advance, but it will need encouragement and reminders.

Active refugee advocacy groups continue in Trentham and Ballarat.

In the meantime, you can honour the contribution RARD has made by attending the ‘Toot’ in Vincent Street on Friday the 6th of January.