News » Our feast for freedom

The men held in the Mantra hotel

Our feast for freedom

If you know Your Community Health, you’ll know that we firmly believe that diversity enriches and adds value to our community and we warmly welcome refugees and asylum seekers into our community.

That’s why when some colleagues and I first heard that over 60 men are being held under guard at the Mantra Hotel opposite our Preston (PANCH) Health Centre, we were devastated and knew we had to do something about it. That’s why we organised a Feast for Freedom.

Cous Cous dish

I first learnt about this issue when a friend shared a facebook post from local member Ged Kearney about the issue. My friend didn’t know that the hotel is directly opposite my workplace.

It felt like a wake-up call for me, that the issue is back on my door step. (15 years ago Asylum Seeker Resource Centre operated out of a house in Thornbury and I collected food at my children’s kindergarten for the ASRC).

It’s devastating that mandatory detention has been policy now for more than a generation. During that time I have felt hopeless and impotent.

These men are being held at the hotel because other detention centres are full. They have no access on site to outdoor area except under guard for a cigarette on a balcony. If they get to spend 30 minutes under the sky, the have to travel under guard, handcuffed, in a bus to Broadmeadows detention centre.

Many of the men are too unwell or despondent to travel.

Your Community Health has offered to provide free medical, dental and allied health services to these men, but so far our offer to Government has gone unanswered.

This is a major social issue of our time, a huge and current injustice happening on our watch. That’s why I needed to do something – and I am pleased that many staff members are helping!

Our Feast for Freedom will bring staff together to share a meal and celebrate what unites us. It’s our way of standing in solidarity with people in detention and raise funds and awareness of this issue – to remind folk that this policy is not right and can be changed.

We look forward to telling you all about it. In the meantime, if you want to do your bit go to and organise your own fundraiser.


Your Community Health continues to try and engage with the Federal Government to allow those imprisoned at the Mantra Hotel in Preston to access our health services. We have had no response to date.

Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, our Feast for Freedom has been postponed, to limit non-essential public gatherings. We look forward to hosting it at another time in the future.


Feature photo: ABC News, supplied by Damian Callinan.