Crowds of people donned purple clothing and braved the winter chill to march in honour of refugees and asylum seekers in search of safety in Australia.
Clutching signs calling for the immediate closure of Naru and Manus Island detention centres, the group lead by the Grandmothers Against Detention, implored the city to think of children currently imprisoned.
As they marched down Sturt Street they chanted “before you vote, think about the children of Nauru”. After the rally, more than 100 people gathered at Queen Victoria Square for a refugee flag raising ceremony.
African refugee and Ballarat multicultural ambassador Sadiki Mukasa told the crowd his harrowing story of how he and his family had fled the Congo after living in a refugee camp for years.
“I was separated from my mum and sisters because my dad and I had to go into hiding so we didn’t get forced to join the army,” he said. “We never thought we would see each other again, but by chance we were reunited at the camp.”
Mr Mukasa said the move to Ballarat five years ago changed his life.
“I finally feel like I have a home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ballarat High School held a forum with refugees from all over the world including former child solider and South Sudan refugee David Vincent. As a child, Mr Vincent walked for three months across Sudan and the Sahara Desert into Ethiopia with his father. They had no shoes, no food and no shelter. He was trained as a child soldier and spent almost 20 years in refugee camps. He later went on to write a best selling memoir: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die.
On Tuesday human rights activist and author Arnold Zable will hold a forum with The Courier’s editor Eugene Duffy. Mr Zable will be discussing his new book The Fighter which delves into the life of Australian Jewish champion boxer Henry Nissen who grew up in working-class Carlton during migration in the 1950s and 60s. The book convention will be held at the Ballarat Library, Doveton Street from 4pm to 6.30pm.
On Wednesday, there will be a House of Welcome fundraiser lunch to raise money for emergency assistance to asylum seekers lead by South Sudanese refugee Issac T Moses from 1.30pm. The event is at the Nazareth House Hall, 218 Mill St, Lake Wendouree. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for concession.