Perth picked for refugee re-settlement
The WA Government says a lack of resources means that most of its upcoming intake of Syrian refugees will be resettled in Perth.
Rural councils across WA (and across Australia) want to help refugees build a new life in their towns, but the WA Department of Premier and Cabinet says that will not happen until at least six months after they arrive, due to the limited access to specialist support outside the capital city.
But the Federal Liberal Member for O'Connor, Rick Wilson, says some country towns are well-equipped to take refugees.
“I'll certainly be trying to change that decree from the Western Australian Government,” he told the ABC.
“I'd be looking to get people out of the cities and into as many country towns as we possibly can in the shortest possible timeframe.
“We can't take people in and put them into areas where there are no job opportunities but that's where areas come in like Katanning, Albany and Mount Barker which have the abattoirs and provide the opportunity for unskilled people to find work.
“That's been kind of a Mecca for new immigrants to Western Australia.
“We want these families to move into private accommodation, get the kids into school, get the adults learning English and getting training, job skills and getting into the workforce.
“Any community that can offer those sort of services would be more than welcome to offer an expression of interest to host some of these people,” he said.
The WA Local Government Association says councils should bide their time.
“It even comes down to things like interpreter services, do we have the particular ones we need, do we have those skills or can we access them?” president Lynne Craigie said.
“If we don't have them can we bring people to town that do have them? Obviously that's going to be easier in the bigger places like Geraldton and Bunbury than it would be in smaller communities.
“It's no good looking at what we have until we know what they need.
“Once we find out what these people are like, then we can then go back to our communities and say; ‘What do we have?’
“What can we share how do we work together to accommodate these people and where are they best placed.
“I don't think we can be quite as harsh to say [regional communities] are just interested to increase their numbers, I think that would be a failing indictment on us all.”
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said it was a sensible move by the WA Government.
“People coming from such a war-torn country are likely to have a very high level of specialist needs, not just in terms of language, but in terms of trauma, medical injuries, corrective surgery,” he said.
“I understand the sentiment and it's been very encouraging to see so many communities respond with a welcoming hand, even if in some cases there is a degree of even self-interest and that's understandable.
“But, I think the interests of the refugees does have to be put forward and be taken as the primary consideration.
“The communities do need to be able and adequately resourced to deal with it.
“It might be a good time for some of these shire presidents to actually push forward the educational, health and welfare needs that they [need] as existing communities because they certainly will need more of it if the refugees are going to settle there.”