Federal Greens leader Richard di Natale told the crowd of about 400 people at the State Library of Victoria that Australia needed to do more to help the asylum seekers detained offshore.
“We are better than this,” he said.
“We are not just turning our backs on innocent people — many of them tortured, some of them raped, [or who have] seen their families killed.”
Iranian asylum seekers Saeed, 37, and Max, 31, attended the rally to pay their respects to their friend Omid,who died this week after setting himself on fire at the Nauru detention centre.
The pair got to know Omid while they were detainees on Nauru in 2013.
“Omid was a very quiet man, a very good man,” Saeed said.
“I’m very sad for Omid’s family and wife, my friends in Manus and Nauru. There are a lot of good people on Nauru and Manus — they are human, you know?”
Saeed now lives in community detention, while Max is on a bridging visa.
Max said he and his wife had been shattered by the news.
“We came here because of him and [murdered asylum seeker] Reza Barati. Too many people … live on Nauru and Manus and they are too upset,” he said.
“Please bring them here.”
Following the PNG Supreme Court’s decision, detainees on Manus Island were allowed to move between the centre’s internal compounds on Thursday night.
However, their ability to move freely, and their permission to use mobile phones, was later revoked.
There is still no timeframe for the centre’s closure, and PNG Immigration authorities said they were still seeking legal advice about how to proceed.
Both the Coalition and Labor have reiterated their support for offshore processing in recent days.
Spanish company Ferrovial is poised to takeover Broadspectrum, the Australian company which operates regional processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island, after acquiring more than 59 per cent of its shares.
In a statement today, Ferrovial indicated it would not continue running detention activities.
“Ferrovial’s view is that this activity will not form part of its services offering in the future,” the statement said.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said Broadspectrum’s contract would expire on February 28 next year.
“The Department is aware of the intended takeover of Broadspectrum by Ferrovial,” it said in a statement.
“The Department expects Broadspectrum will continue to meet its contractual obligations.”