Media Release - Refugee Week 2022

 Mid North Coast Refugee Week 2022 Media Release

Healing is the 2022 theme for Refugee Week, which runs from Sunday June 19 until Saturday, June 25. The Port Macquarie-Hastings region is home to several refugee families who work or go to school in our community and the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group is planning an event on Friday, June 24 to celebrate Refugee Week.

Most of the adult refugees in our region work in aged care, an area desperately in need of staff. Two of the children living in our area were born in Australia, like the Nadesalingam family who have just returned to Biloela after four years in detention.

All the refugees living here are part of our community and have support from local groups, including the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group (MNCRSG), to settle here permanently. Yet their lives remain uncertain, for some for more than 10 years.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Mayor Peta Pinson says the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council welcomes refugees.

“Port Macquarie-Hastings Council resolved to become a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2007 and, while not a high refugee settlement area, the council has made a concerted effort to reflect their support and recognition of refugees in many of their initiatives,” Mayor Pinson said. “I welcome all people to our region who come here to enjoy a better life for themselves and their families.”

One former refugee and now Australian citizen, Tin Hta Nu, fled Burma (now Myanmar) in 1990 after joining demonstrations against human rights violations by the ruling military junta.

After several years living and working in Thailand as a refugee, where she was constantly under surveillance by Burma’s military police, she was able to get to Australia. She worked as a lecturer in the Department of Agriculture Economics at New England University, where she had studied in the early 1980s for her postgraduate degree in agricultural economics. It’s also where she met her husband. The couple now lives in Kendall where Tin is involved in several community organisations.

However, the new refugee families currently living in our region are in constant limbo on temporary protection visas that must be renewed every three or five years. It makes it hard to get a permanent job, to get a loan for a car or house, and to settle into a community when you could be forced to leave at any time.

The new federal government has indicated it will support permanent residency for refugees living in Australia under temporary visas. However, to date there has been no action.

The MNCRSG, which supports refugee families who move to our region, hopes the local community will get involved in Refugee Week to learn about the refugee experience and understand what it is like to be a refugee.

The Refugee Support Group will screen ‘Freedom Stories’ at the Community College in Albert Circuit, Port Macquarie, on Friday, June 24 at 6.30pm, with entry via a gold coin donation. ‘Freedom Stories’ is a collaborative project that explores the achievements and stories of former ‘boat people’ who arrived in Australia around 2001, then spent years in remote detention centres, then living on temporary protection visas. They are now Australian citizens building secure lives and contributing to their new country.

The Refugee Council of Australia, which organises Refugee Week, says Australia and the rest of the world have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the reset button on how we behave towards one another.

“Mainstream and refugee communities alike can draw upon shared hardship to heal wounds, to learn from each other and to move forward. Healing can occur through storytelling, through community and also through realisation of our intrinsic interconnectedness as individuals,” the Refugee Week organisers said.

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