ACT News

March Australia rally welcomes protesters bearing messages from Villawood

More than 100 Canberrans gathered in Garema Place on Sunday afternoon for the nationwide March Australia protest and to hear from a former detention centre worker who walked in silent protest from Villawood Detention Centre.

Unions ACT secretary Kim Sattler addresses the March Australia rally.
Unions ACT secretary Kim Sattler addresses the March Australia rally. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Anne Hilton, who worked as a counsellor at the now-closed Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin, left Villawood, in western Sydney, on August 23 with a small group of dedicated protesters, walking an average of 25 kilometres a day.

"My motivation for this march was being totally fed up and disgusted with the treatment of asylum seekers by this government," she said.

Alice Haines, left, and Lara Pullen at the Garema Place rally.
Alice Haines, left, and Lara Pullen at the Garema Place rally. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"We've been walking in silence to honour the hundreds of asylum seekers who are locked away behind barbed wire, who have no voices and no rights."

Ms Hilton said the lasting impression of her time at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre was "the overall atmosphere of despair and humiliation, with people being treated as if they were not worthy or valued".

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As protesters lined Garema Place, similar events were held in more than 30 cities and towns across the country, with human rights advocate Julian Burnside addressing the crowd in Melbourne. 

Ms Hilton said she was joined on her nine-day march by about 12 people carrying hundreds of letters calling on the government to rethink its immigration policies.

"As we have walked over the past nine days, we have witnessed a very different Australia that is full of kindness, generosity and compassion," she said.

Ms Hilton was joined by comedian Akmal Saleh as she walked down Northbourne Avenue to Garema Place, where she delivered the key message from her trek.

"This is not the Australia that I want for the future and for my grandchildren," she said.

"Australia is better than this, and we are calling on the government to use kindness and compassion to underpin their policies."

Canberra protesters will assemble outside Parliament House on Monday morning to be welcomed by senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Sam Dastyari, with Ms Hilton expected to meet with federal MP Richard Marles later in the day.

Ms Hilton is hopeful the letters carried by herself and fellow marchers will be delivered to Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the coming days.