Tuesday 22 April

To be honest, my attendance (on this blog, and) at Australia House has been patchy. There was the experience with the chalk and the mop and the telling off, and there was RoseMary’s brilliant paper solution. But today was me, with a handmade sign and a candle that wouldn’t stay lit.

What am I doing? I’m still writing to the High Commissioner, I’m spending an hour each week I can bearing witness and trying to keep the issue of Reza Barati’s murder and the continued torture of asylum seeking refugees at the hands of the Australian government, in the name of the Australian people, on the agenda. Manus Island continues. Nauru continues.



Bottom of the Circle

Tuesday morning & I’m feeling a bit flat about tonight, to be honest. I mean, I didn’t imagine 2 weeks outside Australia House would change anything in & of itself – it’s not that. I think I’m just moving through the cycle from raging mad to actually heartsore and sad.

God – imagine. I’m heartsore & sad after two weeks of occasionally showing up on a doorstep. Ha. Advise yourself, Hammill.

So. Tonight. I’ll take my heartsore to the steps and take it from there. Looking forward to hearing from you anytime, Mr Rann.



Suddenly louder

Found them! Found a whole bunch of Australians and friends who have big hearts and open minds and compassionate, sensible human sentiments. Found them, and was thrilled to join them on the steps of Australia House on the Stand tonight.


Australians with hearts and minds at Australia House – we are many

Some other brilliant women had also done some organising through the (I think newly minted) Refugee Action Collective (London). I cannot tell you how brilliant, how hopeful it was to not only feel angry somewhere other than my couch, but to feel angry and take action with other like-minded, passionate, capable people. It’s such a less lonely place where so many more things are possible.

There were about 50 people at Australia House tonight – mostly other Australians, some members of the global movement on refugee rights, some others with particular beefs about the conduct of G4S around the globe, kids, grown-ups, Australians, non-Australians, the BBC World Service Arabic, and one mildly bemused but amiable police officer. We are many!

I wrote to the High Commissioner again. I was a lot less articulate tonight – distracted by the commotion! But I think I’ll keep writing. For me, it’s a bit anchoring, and helps me remember, in the moment, while I’m there. And who knows, one day I might hear back. I’m really open to talking about this with decision-makers directly (in case any of you happen to be reading this – don’t hesitate to get in touch!).

Being in the pub after – talking about all kinds of different actions we want to take targeting different audiences, how to do that, how to engage other people ready to get off the couch, how to add our voice to the voices at home, how to use our energies effectively to force change to happen – was so, so refreshing.

This is what it looks like when good people do something. Be inspired to take your voice to the streets.

Lovely to see you lovely people. Looking forward to seeing you again next week if you fancy.



The evening after the night before

I woke up this morning wondering whether I really had stood out in the drizzle with a candle, largely alone, on a busy street in the middle of London. I stretched a bit, and then thought, ‘Yeah, I did. And I’m going to do it again.’

Writing about last night and the responses I got from friends and family about how my small action was prompting their small actions was a pretty incredible feeling. From little things…, and all that.

And today’s news wasn’t different – today’s news wasn’t ‘Government sees error of its and predecessors’ ways and drastically changes approach to asylum seeker management’, or ‘Suddenly people with money and power see sense and display a modicum of respect for the earth’. And I didn’t hear from Mr Rann (weird – I left my number?!). Which only means: there’s more to do. Sorry: there’s more for us to do.

Today’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster – ‘We can change the world’ to ‘Who are you kidding, exactly?’ – but I think I’ve settled on one message for the moment – doing nothing will definitely succeed in changing nothing. So: Take it to the streets people – they’re your streets, after all – because being present together is purposeful.

See you next Tuesday.



One woman, a candle, and some jelly snakes does indeed a protest make

Last night I felt like I wanted to get together with some like-minded people in London and plot some considered, effective actions we could take to register and vocalise our frustration, anger, heart-break, etc. at the state of our nation.

Today, talking about action didn’t seem like enough. I woke up this morning and read about the violence against asylum seekers on Manus Island and I decided today was the day. I facebooked some people. I emailed some people. Essentially, what I said was, ‘This is not ok with me and I’m going to do something different about it to what I usually do. Today. I’m going to do that today. Join me.’

So, armed with, quite literally, an umbrella, some candles, a lighter, some jelly snakes (essential), some textas and a note pad, I went to Australia House.

I stood outside the big black gates and I lit my candle. Mostly I stood. I also used my notebook (handy) to write to the Australian High Commissioner. I said:

A fire burns at Australia House

A fire burns at Australia House

Dear Mr Rann,

I stopped by the Commission today. I lit a candle and stood on the front steps. I wanted to let you, and London, know that the news today about the death and violence at Manus Island is abhorrent to me.
I hope that, in your capacity as Australia’s representative here, you would be able to reflect my views – those of an Australian citizen – back to Australia.
I am outraged that my government has overseen the death of this man, who came to us to ask for refuge.
Please know and convey my disappointment and horror that this atrocity has occurred in my name.
I question this Parliament’s ability to govern our nation if it cannot keep safe the wold’s most vulnerable people when explicitly requested to do so.
There are many other things auspiced under this Government against which I stand in protest – this is but one. As such, and in the hope that you can help, you may well find me on your doorstep again.
Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss this further.Sincerely, Amber Hammill

My friend Kate came down to vent her frustrations with (an apple, some cheese* and) some masking tape so I could stick my letter on the front door (no letterbox – oversight Australia). I’ll let you know if I hear from him.

So I went. I stood. I felt a lot of feelings and wrote a letter and lit a candle. So what?

So I felt like taking my rage and sorrow to the streets was, at the very least, a change from doing it on the sofa. I felt like, in a small way, I was able to honour, to bear witness, to the loss of that life at our hands.

In recent months I have, many times, felt uncomfortable that I am sat idly by watching my homeland sink into a mire of ruinous, hateful social and political shambles. There are, no doubt, more inspired, co-ordinated ways for us to feel mad and sad and try to address this. I couldn’t think of any of those today, so I just went.

I’m going to go back. I’m going to go back next Tuesday. And the Tuesday after that, and the Tuesday after that, until someone is listening and helps us overcome these many not insignificant attacks on our nation by its own leaders.

If you’re looking for me, or for a place to vent your tears (and/or have a picnic), I’ll be on the front steps of Australia House at 5.30pm on Tuesdays until further notice.

The sound of one fist pumping!

The sound of one fist pumping!

*Ok, so it sounds like we had a picnic. So? Snacking and being outraged aren’t mutually exclusive – I’m here to tell you.