Councils call to end traumatic detention
Many Australian local government areas are calling out to be allowed to re-house refugees and asylum seekers in their towns.
More than 100 Local Government areas have declared themselves Refugee Welcome Zones under a program by the Refugees Council of Australia.
Distributing just a handful of the people currently suffering in offshore detention to each of these areas would allow the facilities to close, and provide asylum seekers with a vastly improved quality of life.
Refugee advocates have this week tried to get some 200 people out of offshore detention, but the councils crying out to help have much more capacity than that.
There are currently around 3,624 people in Australian immigration detention facilities, about 800 of which are children.
For them, the level of abuse and suffering is difficult to overstate, and will almost certainly affect them for the rest of their lives, no matter how their claims are processed.
It costs less than a quarter of the price of offshore detention to hold somebody in community detention, suggesting there are billions of dollars in savings available if bold moves are made.
Listed below are just a few initiatives from the nation-leading local governments that have put their hand up to help their fellow humans.
Anyone wishing to get their own council involved can learn how to do so, here.
In the Bass Coast Shire, the Council has hosted a range of settlement planning committees and activities in the community involving refugees, which are put on free of charge.
The City of Greater Bendigo has welcomed hundred of refugees to live and work in the city over the ten years it has been involved in the program. The city provides art spaces and organisations to celebrate refugee cultures and support their transition to Australian life.
Melbourne’s City of Brimbank has signed a Social Justice Charter that includes commitments to access, equity, participation and human rights in Council policy, programs and projects, especially for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable population groups.
The City of Greater Dandenong Local Government Area holds annual celebrations of Refugee Week and Cultural Diversity Week, provides funding through a grants program to refugee communities, hosts cultural events and festivals and supports youth inclusion projects and multicultural playgroups.
The City of Freemantle holds a “Welcome Refugee Fiesta” and “Walk Together” every year, with the involvement and support of a range of prominent refugee support, community and advocacy groups.
Large banners welcoming refugees and asylum seekers hang proudly out the front of the Brunswick and Coburg Town Halls in Moreland Council, which has a festival to celebrate the contributions made by refugees to the community.
The Rural City of Murray Bridge has welcomed hundreds of people from China, South Sudan, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, the Philippines, Korea and many other countries. It even has a “New Neighbours” program to help locals meet and develop bonds with migrants.
The City of Palmerston has proudly become the first in the Northern Territory to sign up as an official Refugee Council of Australia Refugee Welcome Zone, solidifying the region’s motto – A Place for People.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has launched a Multicultural Directory of Services designed specifically to assist refugees and new arrivals in accessing information, support and services.
The City of Sydney has a massive amount of programs and resources on offer, which are accessible here.
The City of Whittlesea in Melbourne’s north runs a Welcome Expo, multilingual services, a work ready program, multicultural youth program, refugee week awards, a migrant community leadership program, and interfaith network and many other efforts.Warringah Council on Sydney’s Northern Beaches has projects to help its large migrant community boost education levels and literacy in English. The council also has a strong advocacy role, standing against plans to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs), while also fighting to speed up processing times of asylum seekers; end mandatory detention; process asylum seekers entering Australia within Australia and not in overseas detention; provide services and funding to asylum seekers on bridging visas and therefore end their reliance on charities for survival; and ensure no child is in detention in Australia, or in overseas detention centres, funded by Australia.
The City of Yarra hangs welcoming banners permanently outside three of its town halls, while providing a range of services to assist and support refugees and asylum seekers in the community, including maternal and child health services, sports and recreation, libraries, youth and family services.
This is just a short list of select councils and their efforts to welcome more people into Australia.
These are the leaders of a grassroots movement, as only local governments can be, that sees the simple humanity and will of residents extended to those seeking a better life.
More information and opportunities to help are available at the Refugee Council of Australia website.