Refugee Week

03 June, 2020

The Hon. J.S. LEE (15:43): In a world where violence forces thousands of people to flee for their lives, Australia has a long history as a resettlement country for refugees. Today, it is my privilege to acknowledge Refugee Week which is from 14 to 20 June 2020. Refugee Week is Australia's annual program to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Refugee Week provides the platform where positive images of refugees can be promoted in order to create a culture of welcome throughout the country.

The key purpose of the celebration is to create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration for refugees to live in safety and to make a valuable contribution to Australia. In South Australia, the Australian Migrant Resource Centre has been a successful convener of SA Refugee Week since 2001. Each year, it brings together over 100 organisations as well as thousands of individuals to present multiple events. The launch of Refugee Week in South Australia has always been a highlight for me and something I look forward to every year. Unfortunately, due to the impacts and restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, many of the Refugee Week events have to be cancelled this year. 

For instance, the AMRC Youth Poster Awards exhibition will be postponed until later this year. I take this opportunity to congratulate all the primary and secondary school students who put their hearts and minds into creating thoughtful artwork that reflects the diversity and contributions of people from refugee backgrounds to Australian society. Often when we speak about contributions by migrants and refugees the majority of their stories are found in metropolitan Adelaide. This is because international migrants to Australia, whatever their visa types, are generally highly urbanised and tend to settle in capital cities. However, today let us turn our minds to highlight refugees and migrants in regional South Australia. 

Previous research has shown that most migrants who move to regional towns for employment and those with a refugee background move to country towns to be with extended family and communities from their country of origin. In order to look at settlement issues and workforce participation in a region, I am pleased to report that the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, through a Multicultural Affairs grant, was able to assist the Australian Migrant Resource Centre to conduct a meaningful research initiative working in collaboration with the University of Adelaide's Hugo Centre. 

I offer my heartfelt thanks to AMRC and the Hugo Centre for their collaboration on this significant piece of research. Special thanks must go to the CEO of AMRC, Eugenia Tsoulis OAM, and also Dr Romy Wasserman, Research Associate from the Hugo Centre for Population and Housing. I would like to thank all those involved in the report for their hard work and dedication to providing valuable insights into the experiences, aspirations and needs of migrants and refugees settling in the regional towns of Naracoorte, Murray Bridge and Bordertown. 

The report also highlighted important issues such as health care, education, housing and employment, as well as the complexity of a coordinated approach involving all levels of government. It is envisaged that this case study report will help stakeholders to further develop a strategic framework for migrant communities living and working in regional South Australia. 

The research is entitled, 'Living and working in regional South Australia: a case study of three towns.' Under normal circumstances the launch of such a report would attract a large crowd; however, 2020 as we know it is far from normal. Due to coronavirus restrictions AMRC had to adhere to social distancing guidelines and managed to organise a rather intimate launch of the report with 10 people at the Murray Bridge Council Chamber on Friday 8 May 2020. 

Special thanks to the Mayor of the Rural City of Murray Bridge, Mr Brenton Lewis, his CEO and team for hosting us. I would also like to thank the Member for Hammond, Mr Adrian Pederick for his ongoing support of migrant communities in his electorate. I also wish to thank the Member for MacKillop, Mr Nick McBride, for hosting the Naracoorte launch of the report in his electorate, and I thank Erika Vickery, the Mayor of Naracoorte and Lucindale, and the Mayor of Tatiara, Mr Graham Excell. 

In closing, I wish everyone a happy Refugee Week. Let us all take the time during Refugee Week to acknowledge the contributions of refugees in South Australia.