By Sarah-Jane Aston
The Town of Victoria Park will soon become one of only four local government areas in Western Australia to officially welcome refugees.
Victoria Park has more than 40 percent of its 32,400 residents born oversea and will sign a declaration committing itself to further cultural diversity on October 25th.
The refugee and asylum seeker support group Welcome to Australia says it is vital for humanitarian entrants to feel welcome in their new communities.
“It’s really important for people who have left their own community, even their possessions to regain that feeling of belonging,’ says Mr James Jegasothy.
“Compared to the other three Refugee Welcome Zones, Victoria Park has the highest number of humanitarian entrants.”
Mr Jegasothy says an official welcome provides a counter message and a balance to the negativity that often surrounds the issue.
“It’s recognising the contribution of refugees and asylum seekers to the community,” he says.
Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan says the council hopes to promote inclusion and to provide greater support for refugees.
“We think it’s really important that refugees get recognized,” he says.
“We want to promote, learn and engage with all that community and make them feel welcome.”
Welcome to Australia will partner with Victoria Park for a Walk Together event in October, which is when the declaration will be signed.
“We want to send a positive and powerful message that local communities should be about helping refugees,” says Mr Vaughan.
“It is really important that refugees don’t feel that we don’t want them here. We want them to feel comfortable so the transition is very easy for them.”
The Walk Together event has run on previous years in other parts of the state and across Australia.
Mr Jegasothy added that it was important to publicly express the town’s commitment to compassion and hospitality towards new migrants, especially those who may have given up everything to come here.
“What happens in federal politics doesn’t always reflect what’s happening in the community,” he says.