Marrickville Council has discussed the struggles facing refugees and asylum seekers in Australia at their latest Refugee Forum at the Addison Rd Community Centre.
Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen said on June 4 listening to people share their stories at the forum reinforced the importance of the council welcoming those in need.
“Marrickville has a proud history of supporting refugees and asylum seekers and last year council re-affirmed its commitment as a Refugee Welcome Zone,” Ms Haylen said.
“This is a commitment to welcome refugees and asylum seekers into the Marrickville community. It means upholding the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers and recognising the important contribution that people from refugee backgrounds make towards Marrickville’s rich cultural diversity, our economy and our society.”
The community centre hosted the forum with the Marrickville Multicultural Interagency as part of Refugee Week events.
“We are united in our commitment to building a culture of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees and providing them with resources, services and livelihoods that builds community and enriches lives,” interagency co-convener Litsa Nossar said.
Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power, a speaker at the event, discussed the importance of maintaining compassionate local Government.
“While the national political debate about refugee policy can at times be quite toxic, at the local level many councils are getting on with the job of welcoming new arrivals, promoting people-to-people links and building social harmony,” Mr Power said.
Centre programme co-ordinator Rosie Porter said: “It is important at a local level we stand with local government and promote harmony, compassion and respect for human rights.”
Marrickville Council passed a motion last year declaring the usage of “Welcome” signs for refugees. The signs have been used in council buildings, libraries and council chambers.
“The refugee welcome signs are a way to show that the local councillors and our local council stands with our refugee and asylum seeker communities,” Greens Cr Sylvie Ellsmore said.
“The signs promote and affirm the values of our diverse and inclusive inner-west communities.”
Marrickville Council was one of the first councils to become a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2003. While the zone does not commit the council to specific activities, initiatives which help to create a welcoming atmosphere and help the settlement of refugees are encouraged.
Mr Power said more councils should consider becoming Refugee Welcome Zones.
“The process for becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone is straightforward. Councils simply sign a declaration to welcome refugees, uphold their human rights, demonstrate compassion for new arrivals and enhance cultural and religious diversity.
“How councils implement the pledge is entirely up to them.”