Detainees' families hit the road in protest

10:40 am on 17 March 2016

Families and supporters of New Zealanders being detained on character grounds in Australia, are taking their frustration to the roads today.

They are embarking on a 42-day Trans-Tasman road trip aimed at addressing section 501 of the Migration Act 1958.

Mehaka Tepuia (detained) and grandson Kaige Ashby

Mehaka Tepuia (detained) and grandson Kaige Ashby Photo: Merepeka Matangi

The trip will start in Sydney this evening, before heading throughout Australia and wrapping up in Wellington late next month.

Last week it was revealed that 81 foreign bikies have had their visas cancelled under section 501 since mid 2014 - most of them from New Zealand.

One of them is a former New Zealand Army reserve, Mehaka Tepuia. He is a member of the Rebels Motorcycle Gang, and has been detained without charge since early November when his Australian visa was revoked.

His daughter Merepeka Matangi said it had been a difficult four-and-a half months but he was hanging in there and refusing to be deported to New Zealand.

She said the Trans-Tasman tour gave her family hope.

"Because it shows that people are actually standing up and supporting for all the 501s.

"..And you know doing their best to help out in any way, and talk about what's going on.. and getting people up to date about what's happening on the other side.. that you don't really get to hear or see."

Ms Matangi said her family planned to go along to the Perth leg of the trip.

Pictured is Mehaka Tepuia (the bikie) and grandson Nikau Ashby

Mehaka Tepuia and grandson Nikau Ashby. Photo: Merepeka Matangi

"I'm sure it's both moral support and helping all the 501s and all their cases.

"I have a lot of faith in this helping us out.. and all the rest of them."

Filipa Payne a co-founder of the group Iwi n Aus has organised the road trip.

She said its aim was to visit all detention centres in Australia, and see as many 501 detainees as possible.

A number of detainees' families were taking part, Ms Payne said.

"Some people are just doing certain legs. So they'll be with us from as soon as we enter Queensland until we exit Queensland. And we have other people coming along the way as well."

She said they were hoping to raise awareness at all stops.

"We're going to go to every state in Australia, aside from Tasmania.

"We have huis organised in most big cities. First of all, once we leave Sydney we'll go via Newcastle and have a hui there. Then we're off to the Gold Coast... And Sunday we're in Brisbane. And then we'll take off along the coast, where we've got huis along the way."

Ms Payne said their focus isn't on the turnout but on helping even a few families.

Labour Party MP Kelvin Davis is going to Australia today to take part in the Sydney to Gold Coast leg of the trip.

He said he did not have any qualms about the character test as such.

"And if they fail that character test and are deported to New Zealand, then I've got no qualms about that either. But it's the inhumane treatment of them in detention sentences that I believe is wrong, especially if they've finished their prison sentences."

Mr Davis said he was under no illusion that this movement would prompt any changes to the law.

"It'd be nice to think we could prick Malcolm Turnbull's conscience and Peter Dutton's conscience and that they'd realise that what they're doing is wrong.

"But I don't see that happening. I think just raising awareness you know further, is probably the best that we can hope for."

He said he was also hoping to visit four New Zealanders that are being held in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

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