Protesters Belay From Yarra Bend Bridge To Unfurl #LetThemStay Banner


Two protesters who were suspended from the Yarra Bend bridge east of the Melbourne CBD have come down safely, having scaled the structure to protest the pending deportation of asylum seekers to Nauru.

Katherine Woskett, 25, and Hannah Patchett, 22, had belayed down from the bridge to unfurl a #LetThemStay banner.

The pair greeted peak hour traffic this morning, and are encouraging others around the country to take direct action and put pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to send the children and their families back to Nauru, after the High Court upheld the government’s ability to do so.

Activists who have dropped #LetThemStay banner over Eastern Freeway encourage others to take action on behalf of those who can’t. Don’t #SendThemBack. #CloseTheCamps

Posted by Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance on Wednesday, 10 February 2016


Helen War, a spokesperson for the protest, who was watching her friends from the side of the Eastern Freeway, said both the women involved in the action had friends who came to Australia to seek asylum and couldn’t imagine their children being deported to Nauru. War said cars had pulled over to observe the protest and that many had expressed support by honking or cheering, while some had also jeered at the protesters.

refugee protest, new matilda
Katherine Woskett, an arborist, pictured left and Hannah Patchett, to the right. (IMAGE: Facebook, WACA)

War said Victorian Search and Rescue officers had come to the scene to assist the women. She described the protest as “a last resort”. “How else do we get our message across,” War said. “We don’t want our government to be acting in our name in these completely inhumane ways.”

An Estimates hearing in Canberra this week heard that none of the 267 people facing return to Nauru had yet been sent but that some may already be ready to go. The same hearing was told there were 102 reported incidents of self-harm in the Nauru detention centre in 2015.

Let Them Stay protests on Monday attracted thousands around the country. The Department of Immigration maintains the asylum seekers facing return to Nauru, originally brought over to Australia for medical reasons, will be assessed on a one-by-one basis before a final decision about each person is made.

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.