Rose Byrne Co-Chairs Event Raising Money for Australian Refugee Crisis

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Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale

Byrne, Naomi Watts and Laura Brown chaired the first annual gala for Ads-Up, a nonprofit to support Australian refugees in the United States.

New York's Australian community came out Thursday night for the first annual gala for Ads-Up, held at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, where the event raised money for Australian refugees living in the United States.

The Australian government began refusing refugees by boat in 2013, and about 1,500 people arrived on the shores after this policy went into effect. Those refugees were detained in offshore camps on Manus Island and in Nauru, and under the Obama Administration, a deal was reached to help resettle people in the United States.

“It’s really shameful. It’s not something to be proud of,” Rose Byrne told The Hollywood Reporter. Byrne heard about Ads-Up from her friend, InStyle editor Laura Brown, and both of them co-chaired the event along with Naomi Watts, who wasn’t able to attend. "It’s been a long-standing, complicated and very sad part of Australia’s international identity and reputation so anything to do to help."

Byrne said she hopes the event raises awareness for the cause, especially as when the refugees arrive in the United States, they are asked to reimburse the U.S. government for their travel costs and need help getting settled.

The event raised more than $120,000 and the money from the evening will go toward creating an education fund for the refugees so they can go to school and learn and adapt in their new country.

The organization Ads-Up was founded by Fleur Wood and Ben Winsor last year as a way to activate Australians in America for the cause. All of the food and beverages were provided by Australian restaurants like Bluestone Lane, Lalito, M&G food stuffs, Two Hands, Charley St, Uncle Chop Chop, Ruby’s, The Flower Shop, Trapizzino, and Gran Tivolia. Drinks came from the Bird in Hand winery, the Australian distillery Four Pillars gin and Mr. Black.

“The idea of the charity is to create a social network,” Wood told THR. “So when the refugee arrives we’ll find an Australian in the community to introduce them to. We raise funds to provide emergency funding when they need help. And now we’re launching our education fund to help them get an education so they can turn their life around.”

Deborra-Lee Furness said she was embarrassed and horrified by the problem. “We’re like the Texans, Southern hospitality, but we did not express it in this instance,” Furness says. “What happened on Manus Island was akin to torture, which does not go along with the personality of our country. Why isn’t there transparency? Australian tax payers are paying for this. Why don’t we know what’s happening there? I understand there’s politics but there’s human rights.”