Workers, students and families will take to the Yarra River on March 24-25 to raise funds for, and create greater awareness about the situation faced by, refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.
The idea was born last year when Simon Keenan, upon discovering the harsh living conditions for asylum seekers on bridging visas, undertook a 2226-kilometre paddle down the Murray River, meeting with refugee communities along the way.
"These people have no work rights, or access to Medicare or Centrelink, and as such, they're often forced to beg from charities for their survival", he explained. "These restrictions make it hard to live a life with dignity. It is believed that there are more than 1000 of these cases in Melbourne alone and their fight for life is largely unknown by the wider public."
Keenan's journey raised more than $13,000 for support programs of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre and the Hotham Mission Asylum Seekers Project.
This year, Keenan said, "we're hoping to raise in excess of $10,000 from the paddlers' sponsorships, business donations and the Mega Benefit Celebration at the Melbourne Rowing Club, where the paddlers finish up". The celebration will feature an improvised mash-up by hip-hop collective TZU together with global roots band Symbiosis, plus a guest appearance by global hip-hop outfit Diafrix, a crew of former refugees.
The money will go towards clothing, food, housing, medical supplies, legal advice and school starter-kits for refugees and asylum seekers. For more information, and to register for the event, visit <http://www.paddlingforrefugees.org>, email <firstname.lastname@example.org> or phone Simon on 0417 379 121.