This week marked the tenth anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s announcement that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”

Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) are taking action in many areas of Australia including marches, vigils, delegations, and demonstrations in hopes of ending the inhumane Australian government refugee policy.

Neil Para is a refugee who is making a very long march – from Ballarat to Sydney! Neil and his family arrived in Australia in 2012. They fled Sri Lanka to Malaysia where they were found to be refugees by the UNHCR. But they then travelled by boat to Australia where they were taken to the Christmas Island detention centre under the offshore detention policy for boat arrivals.

He and his family are now living in Ballarat without refugee status. He and his wife are unable to work and they have survived with the support of the local Ballarat community.

Neil is a strong advocate for refugees and has formed the Union of Australian Refugees. On 1 August he will start a 1,000 km walk from Ballarat to Sydney with a petition for the Prime Minister asking for speeding up of the visa process and recognition of citizenship status for children born in Australia.

Although the Daylesford RAR has disbanded, a number of local community members are providing support on behalf of RAR. Neil will be supported on his walk by RAR groups along his route including Ballarat, Southern Highlands, Yass, Albury-Wodonga, Wangaratta, Yackandandah, Mansfield, Trentham, and Strathbogie Ranges RAR groups as well as supporters in Wagga Wagga and Shepparton.

Neil has a petition on and hopes that his walk will persuade more people to add their signatures. He aims to get 25,000.

Neil expects to be walking through Daylesford on Wednesday, August 2. If you want to support Neil, turn out to cheer him on as he passes through town. See the Wombat Post Facebook page on Tuesday next week (July 25) for an update on his progress and an estimate of his time of arrival.

If you are able to help Neil on his walk, contact RAR Ballarat.