The powerful ‘Bring Them Home Now’ art installation – comprising red balloons, shoes and posters showing the names and faces of the 239 hostages captured from southern Israel on October 7 by Hamas – has already featured in Sydney and Melbourne, and on November 14, it was on show on the front lawn of Parliament House in Canberra.
A core group of eight Israeli-Australian volunteers – who spearheaded the two big pro-Israel rallies in Sydney in recent weeks – were joined by more than 150 other volunteers from Sydney for the full day trip to the nation’s capital, as well as Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, and Melbourne-based United With Israel campaigner Nirit Eylon.
Volunteer Hagit Ashual told The AJN that their primary goal was to maintain awareness of the ‘Bring Them Home Now’ message, and also raise the imminent danger of antisemitism that is impacting Australia’s Jewish community.
“We all started setting up the installation at 6am, and a very full-on, but phenomenally productive and beautiful day followed.
“We were so thrilled about its positive impact, that we are planning to travel to Parliament House again on November 28, to connect with even more federal politicians.”
Members of the core group of organisers – all Israeli-Australian volunteers – held separate one-on-one meetings with a combined total of 17 federal MPs, mostly in their offices inside Parliament House, but Ashual said several more MPs popped into the front lawn area throughout the day, prior to the question time session, to view the art installation, and have brief, informal chats related to the campaign.
Among the politicians participating were Senators Simon Birmingham – the Shadow Foreign Minister – Jacqui Lambie, James Paterson, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Maria Kovacic, Claire Chandler, David Van, Deborah O’Neill, David Fawcett, Andrew Bragg and Glen Sterle.
A mix of House of Representatives MPs from both major parties that participated included Sussan Ley, Paul Fletcher, Josh Burns, Mike Freelander, Allegra Spender and David Smith.
Ashual said, “We had many positive meetings, and felt that they [the MPs] listened, and understood the issues our community faces right now,” and put a special mention in for independent Senator Van, “who, after speaking with us, made changes to his prepared speech he later delivered in Parliament, to include our message”.
“I felt the day was very effective, given the short timeframe we had to prepare, but there is much more work to do to in this campaign, and we hope in our next visit to Canberra, we can reach out to MPs who are more kind of sitting on the fence, and put forward our case.”
Ashual said the art installation proved to be an excellent conversation starter, to focus attention on the urgency of the hostage situation in Gaza.
“Many politicians, and their staff members, who came, put on yellow ribbons we were distributing, that have become a global symbol for the release of hostages.”
On social media afterwards, Ley commented how she attended the vigil on the front lawn of Parliament House, “in support of the safe return of all citizens who have been taken hostage by Hamas terrorists”.
“The coalition stands resolutely with Israel, in its right to defend itself,” Ley commented, adding, the hostages must be released now.