Refugee Welcome Zone signs launched after years of advocacy

WELCOME: Representatives from Bega Valley Shire Council, Social Justice Advocates, Red Cross, and Bega Valley Rural Australians for Refugees with Sudanese born refugee Hasanin Ahmed. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
WELCOME: Representatives from Bega Valley Shire Council, Social Justice Advocates, Red Cross, and Bega Valley Rural Australians for Refugees with Sudanese born refugee Hasanin Ahmed. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Following the Bega Valley becoming the first council in Australia to become a Rural Australians for Refugees-initiated Welcome Town, signs have been placed across the region.

In celebration of Refugee Week 2018, Bega Valley Shire Council launched the Refugee Welcome signs on Thursday, June 21 outside Bega library.

“History is here,” Bega Valley Rural Australians for Refugees’ Hallie Fernandez said.

Bega Valley Shire deputy mayor Liz Seckold thanked the region’s advocacy groups for their dedication, and said 80 local government areas have now declared themselves welcome zones.

“As well as welcoming refugees to the shire, the installation of these signs at council’s library building links refugees to our library service, which is a good first point of contact with council officers and services and provides a ‘spring board’ to other council and community based services,” a council spokesperson said. 

The design of the sign was undertaken in consultation with Refugee Council of Australia representatives.

Social Justice Advocates Of The Sapphire Coast’s Gavin Bell said the group will be hosting a third asylum seeker and refugee forum over coming months featuring former Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.

The group also host a monthly social networking meeting for migrants at Bega’s Funhouse Studio, and a regional multicultural day, similar to the annual event run in Cooma, will be held in Wolumla in August.

On Friday, the Bega Valley Rural Australians for Refugees will join in activities during refugee week by hosting a screening of a film made by and about refugees.

Australian documentary maker and director of the film Joylon Hoff was living in Jakarta when the Australian Government reported it had “stopped the boats”. 

He had never met a refugee, so he went to the staging post for boats travelling to Christmas Island because he wanted to know to who they were, where they came from and what they were going to do. It was there he met two Afghan Hazara refugees, Muzafar Ali and Khadim Dai. 

Stuck in Indonesia after Australia “stopped the boats” and facing many years in limbo, these two men built a community and started a school that inspired a refugee education revolution. 

The Staging Post will be shown at Funhouse Studio, Bega from 6pm on Friday, June 22.

Mr Hoff and Mr Ali will be present for a Q&A after the screening. Entry is $10 or $20 for a family ticket.

If you would like dinner before the film RSVP to begavalleyrar@gmail.com.