Refugee Week runs from Sunday, 18 June to Saturday, 24 June, 2017. To contribute to Refugee Week, the Shepparton Interfaith Network in collaboration with GOTAFE Multicultural Education Centre gave a seminar and discussion on Australia’s Migration and Australia’s Welcome at the Harder Auditorium on Tuesday 20 June. Particpants responded enthusiastically.
Attending this function were staff from the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District, Victoria Police Multicultural Liason, Red Cross Asylum Seeker network and members of the Shepparton Interfaith Network as well as students from the GOTAFE Multicultural Education area. Secretary of the Interfaith Network, Rev. Chris Parnell opened the proceedings and gave an account of refugee welcome zones and referenced the forthcoming event in Euroa.
Refugee Welcome Zones and the Welcome Scroll
A Refugee Welcome Zone is a Local Government Area which has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community. The Refugee Welcome Zone initiative began in June 2002 as part of Refugee Week celebrations.
This public commitment is also an acknowledgement of the tremendous contributions refugees have made to Australian society in the fields of medicine, science, engineering, sport, education and the arts. By making this Declaration, it is hoped that local government will be encouraged in their continuing efforts to support the men, women and children who make the difficult journey to Australia to seek our protection.
Rural Australians for Refugees have created a Welcome Scroll for Refugees, which, at present, is on a national journey. The National Journey of the Welcome Scroll is a reminder to us all of local government and community support for successful resettlement of refugees in Australia. The Welcome Scroll will function as a “baton” or “torch”, which will travel around Australia to Refugee Welcome Zones, leaving the National Rural Australians for Refugees Conference in Bendigo on 3rd September 2016. On 17 June 2017, the Welcome Scroll was signed by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle.
Unfortunately, it will not be possible to have the Welcome Scroll visit every Refugee Welcome Zone. Therefore we are inviting all Refugee Welcome Zones to send an electronic signature or endorsement to be printed onto the Welcome Scroll in Bendigo prior to its journey around Australia. It is hoped that the Welcome Scroll will be endorsed by representatives of all Local Councils who have chosen to become Refugee Welcome Zones. The Scroll’s journey will confirm Local Government commitment to welcome refugees into our communities.
The Welcome Scroll at Euroa
Recently, RAR-Euroa received notice that the RAR Welcome Scroll tour (https://www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au/the-welcome-scroll/), which was launched in Melbourne last Saturday by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, AC, to mark the start of Refugee Week, has included Euroa on its agenda. RAR-Euroa is planning a get-together at the 3rd Age Club in Kirkland Avenue, 1.00 – 3.30 pm, on Tuesday 4th July. Afterwards, we plan to walk the scroll down to the library in Binney St, where it will be on display for maybe a week or two.
Experience of Locals
After clarifying the English Language skills of those present, students were invited to give expression to their experience of coming to Australia. All students present gave a positive account of settlement in Australia, and a most positive account of living in Australia. Several students told that Australia is a country free from internecine conflict in neighbourhoods and war; Australia was a country of peace, and students deeply appreciated this. Several spoke of their experiences of war and their experiences of migration to Australia.
Participants also spoke of their perceptions of life in Australia. There was absence of blatant corruption and Police appeared to be helpful and trustworthy. Several students spoke of police not trustworthy, not helping them with justice issues where they had come from.
Students were also asked if they had experienced discrimination, had they been told, “Go back to where you came from” One student – among the 30 odd students present – told of an encounter outside Coles Supermarket some weeks back. She had managed to deal with this appropriately. An aboriginal activist present told all students, “You tell anyone who tells you to go back home, you have a welcome to country. You brother gave you a welcome to country and no one can tell you to leave our country“!
The meeting concluded with general discussion of peaceful life in Australia and general conditions of living in Shepparton and surrounding districts.