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UN hears Newcastle initiative ‘Conversations for Palestine’

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Newcastle initiative Conversations for Palestine has been recognised on the world stage, earning global acclaim at a UN Conference in Geneva during the week. 

Executive director and principal lawyer at the Australian Centre for International Justice Rawan Arraf addressed the 2024 Conference of Civil Society Organisations working on the Question of Palestine, convened by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP).  

Reflecting on her participation in Newcastle’s inaugural Conversations for Palestine sold out event on 14 March, Arraf provided insight into Australia’s grassroots response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, emphasising the mobilisation of the largest anti-war movement since 2003. 

“The local community is hosting Conversations for Palestine, a series of public forums, to educate communities and organise in strategic ways to end Australian complicity with Israeli crimes, in all its forms,” she explained.  

“They are horrified, for example, that in their community, the Australian arms manufacturer, the Varley Group is doing business with an Israeli arms manufacturer, in several contracts selling Israeli military technology to the Australian military.   

Executive Director and Principal Lawyer at the Australian Centre for International Justice, Rawan Arraf.

“I was on a panel with a local Aboriginal elder and founder of Justice Aunties, Aunty Tracey Hanshaw from the Awaba peoples, who also helped set up the Newcastle Palestine Action Group… It has been heartening to see the Blak-Palestinian solidarity movement among Palestinian communities and First Nations peoples on the Australian continent continue to grow as a testament to shared global struggles against settler-colonialism.  

“The statements from the NSW and Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services calling for a ceasefire and an end to Israel’s colonial violence, occupation and apartheid, are just some examples of that solidarity in action.” 

Local Awaba Elder and veteran activist Aunty Tracey Hanshaw is completing degrees in Law and Global Indigenous Studies, and joined the panel with Rawan Arraf at Conversations for Palestine last month. 

“As First Nations people, we understand the impact of occupation and colonial settler violence,” she said. 

“What is happening in Gaza is a genocide and it’s time for us all to stand up, we need to bring people along with us and build the movement, talk to your neighbour, encourage them to come to a rally, join an action group, lobby your local MP, the power of change is with the people.”

Despite Australia’s recent support for a ceasefire, the delay of over three months following the December UN General Assembly resolution has reputedly resulted in more than 32,000 Palestinian lives lost.  

The next Conversations for Palestine event will explore the experiences of people with disability during conflict and occupation.  

Local disability activist Leigh Creighton who’s helping to organise the event, stated, “We want everyone in Newcastle to join us.  Let’s stand for people with disability in Gaza and show them we care.” 

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