POLITICS

Aussie Stars Lineup To Answer Phones For Refugee Telethon

Musicians, comedians, actors and journalists are helping to raise money for refugee services.

19/06/2017 9:07 PM AEST | Updated 19/06/2017 9:07 PM AEST
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Musician John Butler answers phones during the ASRC's 2016 telethon.

CANBERRA -- A packed lineup of Australian musicians, comedians, actors, journalists and more will man the phones on Tuesday, hoping to raise $300,000 for asylum seeker and refugee services.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), a Melbourne-based agency which bills itself as "the largest independent human rights organisation for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia", has tapped a star-studded list of helpers for its second telethon, to happen on World Refugee Day.

Musicians Courtney Barnett, Clare Bowditch, Ross Wilson, Mark Seymour and Missy Higgins; actors Samuel Johnson; comedians Meshel Laurie and Sam Pang; and other identities including Van Badham, Susan Carland, Faustina Agolley and Helen Kapalos will be among those answering phones and taking donations from 6am to midnight. Funds raised will go toward providing housing, food and mental health support for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.

CEO of the ASRC, Kon Karapanagiotidis, told HuffPost Australia that the 2016 telethon raised almost $240,000, and hoped this year's event would eclipse that total.

"On World Refugee Day, it's a vital day to put a spotlight on both local and global humanitarian crises facing refugees, and a great way for everyday Australians to show the way our politicians are handling the issue doesn't represent us," he said.

Karapanagiotidis said the goal for the telethon -- $300,000 -- would help provide 12,000 nights of housing, 1700 sessions with counsellors, and food for a year for 45 families.

"By this Christmas, we'll be the largest provider of free housing to people seeking asylum in Australia. We're trying to scale up. We're housing 83 people a night who are otherwise homeless, but we need to grow that to 200 a night because of the number of people about to lose work rights," he said, referring to a recently announced government crackdown on asylum seekers awaiting their refugee status determination, who may have their government support curtailed.

"If we go beyond that total, we've got a bigger target of providing 55,000 nights of housing. Plus we need more social workers."

Karapanagiotidis said he was proud of the diversity of the telethon lineup.

"When I reached out to people asking them to lend their name, it was amazing. Half the people I've never met in my life. We've got people from refugee backgrounds, first nation people, LGBTI people, people of colour, everyone coming together," he said.

"There's something really powerful about that. This is the Australia we want, our values in action."

The telethon begins at 6am on Tuesday. To donate, call 1300 692 772. For more information, see the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

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