Thousands of people have gathered in the dark to urge the Australian government to act on the growing humanitarian crisis in Europe, and take more refugees from the Middle East.
The events were sparked by the images of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body was pictured on a Turkish beach after drowning at sea.
Crowds met in Sydney’s Hyde Park and Melbourne’s Treasury Gardens with candles lit, also bringing attention to the plight of those fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq.
The call went out on social media to come together in Melbourne and Sydney under the hashtags #refugeeswelcome and #LightTheDark.
Similar rallies were also held in Perth and Adelaide and others will be held in Brisbane and Canberra later this week.
In Victoria alone, thousands of Melburnians attended the candlelight vigil to honour the life of the refugee boy who drowned as his family fled Syria.
A huge crowd braved a cold, drizzly night to gather in the Treasury Gardens in Aylan Kurdi’s memory.
The image of three-year-old Aylan’s tiny body, washed on to a Turkish beach following his family’s failed bid to flee Syria by boat, has become a symbol of the humanitarian crisis.
The large crowd circled a tiny marquee and backed along Spring Street and Treasury Place listening to speakers, including two resettled refugees and refugee advocate Pamela Curr.
Ms Curr led a minute’s silence for Aylan as rain tumbled.
She urged the Federal Government to review its border protection policies and welcome refugees to Australia.
“We will keep coming out to fight, to light the dark until our Government opens its heart and opens the door,” Ms Curr told the crowd.
“We need to open our hearts. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.”
In Sydney, 5000 people gathered in Hyde Park, with candles being lit at a makeshift altar.
Gosford Anglican priest Rod Bower spoke to the Sydney crowd about Aylan.
“His tiny little body lying as if asleep on a Turkish beach, but he isn’t asleep,” he said.
“This little boy is dead, as is his brother and his mother and many other humans.
“Without warning this child has become every refugee. An archetype, every refugee, calling us to the fullness of humanity.
“None but the wilfully deaf, the wilfully blind and the dead of heart can remain unmoved.
“Sadly it is those wilfully blind to our eternal shame who govern us this day.”
In Darwin, people gathered on the Nightcliff jetty and foreshore.
“It’s important for Darwin to stand up and be counted,” said Julie U’Ren, a social worker who attended the vigil.
“I’m here to acknowledge lost opportunities and lives and to encourage and inspire,” said a man known only as Shankar from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Agency.
Here’s how people showed their support on social media:
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) September 7, 2015
— Amnesty Australia (@amnestyOz) September 7, 2015
Hey, #LightTheDark, you’re the first story on SBS News as it goes to air right now.
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) September 7, 2015
— Senator Lee Rhiannon (@leerhiannon) September 7, 2015
— Steph Cousins (@StephAmnestyOz) September 7, 2015
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) September 7, 2015
— ASRC (@ASRC1) September 7, 2015
– with AAP, ABC