GIPPSLAND local governments are declaring themselves Refugee Welcome Zones as part of a national campaign to welcome and recognise asylum seekers.
First published in the 13 March edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Baw Baw Shire is bordered by three local councils that have declared themselves RWZs: Cardinia Shire, Yarra Ranges and, as of earlier this month, Latrobe City. Further south, Bass Coast has also declared itself a RWZ.
Councillors from 112 of 565 Australian local government areas have declared their councils welcome zones in Australia.
David Langmore, Convener for the Latrobe Valley Asylum Seeker Support Group, told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen he believed becoming a RWZ had been a logical next step to Latrobe’s commitment to the issue.
“I think it is a very important reaffirmation by council and the community to continue the type of work it has already been doing,” Mr Langmore said.
Latrobe City mayor Dale Harrison said his LGA becoming a RWZ was a case of formalising and recognising the work that the community had already done in the last 30 to 40 years.
“We’ve got the multicultural festival that took place a couple of weeks ago at the Greek orthodox church, with 40 different nationalities represented there that presented foods and dancing and musical shows from their country of origin,” Mr Harrison told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Mr Harrison said he believed that while becoming a RWZ was a per-council decision, it would be a good thing for more councils in Gippsland to declare themselves a welcome zone in order to recognise the contributions of refugees to local communities.
“[Latrobe City] discussed it, and since World War II we have had so many European refugees come over. Then the Vietnamese and South East Asian people have come through and we’ve now got a lot of African refugees that have come through. It’s part of helping them become part of the community is what it’s all about.”
Baw Baw mayor Debbie Brown said that while becoming a welcome zone was not yet on the agenda for the council she had had communication about the issue and intended to see where council would go on the issue.
On the issue of multiculturalism, Cr Brown told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen she believed Baw Baw was very welcoming to a diverse range of cultures.
“I think our council does very well because I think there were 11 different countries that were nominated to be made into Australian citizens on Australia day,” Cr Brown said.
“When you have a look at where the diversity of those are, we are certainly welcoming to multicultural people.”
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