15 June, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (17:29): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that Refugee Week will be celebrated across Australia from Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June 2022 and provides a platform to celebrate the positive social and economic contributions made by refugees to Australian society and create a culture of welcome;

2. Notes this year’s theme of 'healing' raises awareness of the experience of refugees and encourages mainstream and refugee communities to learn from each other to heal wounds and grow stronger as a connected society;

3. Congratulates the Australian Migrant Resource Centre for being the successful convener of SA Refugee Week since 2001 and for hosting the annual Youth Poster Awards Exhibition which features posters from primary, secondary, and tertiary students that celebrate the courage, resilience and contributions of people of refugee backgrounds; and

4. Commends the Marshall Liberal Government for standing in solidarity with the Afghan and Ukrainian communities in view of the humanitarian tragedies unfolding overseas, funding the Afghan Community Service Hub to support the South Australian Afghan community throughout the Afghanistan crisis and establishing the Eastern European Conflict Mental Health Support Line to address the urgent mental health needs of Ukrainian community members deeply affected by the invasion of Ukraine.

It is a great honour today to move this motion in my name to acknowledge the importance of Refugee Week in South Australia. 

As the Shadow Minister for Multicultural South Australia and Communities, I am passionate about supporting the hard work and contributions that refugees make to our state. Australia is a proud multicultural country and a signatory to the refugees convention—the key international instrument that regulates the obligations of states to protect refugees fleeing from persecution.

Australia has been involved in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees resettlement program since 1977 and has consistently ranked as one of the top three resettlement countries in the world. Australia has a long and proud tradition of resettling refugees and vulnerable people in the humanitarian need areas. Refugees are seeking protection from conflict and trauma, the likes of which are hard to imagine.

With the right support refugees can make extraordinary contributions and become outstanding members of society. There are lots of ways in which we can help our newest arrivals build their lives in Australia, and I want to place on the record my sincere gratitude to peak refugee organisations and service providers as well as not-for-profit multicultural organisations that are doing exceptional work to help refugees reconnect with their families, give them hope and help them rebuild their lives here in Australia.

It is great to be able to recognise all the positive social and economic contributions that refugees bring to Australian society through celebrating Refugee Week.

Each year, Refugee Week has a theme to raise awareness and bring together individuals, communities and organisations from many different backgrounds behind a common theme and cohesive message.

Every refugee who comes to Australia has a story to tell. This year we celebrate the theme of “Healing” to encourage refugees and other communities to learn from each other, to heal wounds and grow together, stronger as a connected society. The common theme is a reminder that, regardless of our differences, we all share a common humanity.

The importance of human connections has been underscored by the pandemic and recent conflicts abroad and the lessons they teach us can help us in so many ways. Mainstream and refugee communities alike can draw upon shared hardship to heal wounds, to learn from each other and to move forward. Early community support can make a real and meaningful difference to refugees. There have been many wonderful offers of support for people who have resettled in Australia. It is all a part of the healing process.

Healing can occur through shared personal stories and experiences through being together at community gatherings. I want to take this opportunity to express my special thanks to all the volunteers who are helping and supporting refugees and humanitarian entrants in Australia to build their new lives and feel at home.

Fostering a sense of belonging for refugees in a foreign land and building a blanket of warmth and services around them provide the intrinsic value of interconnectedness for individuals who may have lost everything to feel, once again, a bit normal. Healing is an important step for refugees and an important step for us all in building a more inclusive multicultural and intercultural society.

I would like to acknowledge the important work of the Australian Migrant Resource Centre as the convener of SA Refugee Week since 2001.

Every year, and again this year, the AMRC hosts the annual Youth Poster Awards Exhibition that celebrates the themes surrounding the United Nations international refugee convention. These themes include multiculturalism, human rights, cultural diversity, antiracism and the welcoming of refugees into Australia, as well as this year's theme of healing. This wonderful initiative provides an opportunity for children and young people to educate themselves about human rights and for children who are refugees and their families to share their experiences and cultural identity.

I look forward to meeting the inspiring young artists at the event next week and seeing this year's award-winning posters. I know it is very difficult to choose winners out of many because there are so many fantastic submissions.

I want to thank and congratulate AMRC for hosting the exhibition once again.

A special acknowledgement must go to Eugenia Tsoulis OAM, CEO of AMRC and Board Member of the South Australian Multicultural Commission, for her longstanding service to multicultural communities in our state and for her advocacy for refugees in South Australia.

I would like to provide a recent example of the work by AMRC. Last year, 2021, following the devastating fall of Afghanistan to Taliban forces, Eugenia worked closely with Hussain Razaiat, a fellow Member of the South Australian Multicultural Commission and President of the Afghan United Association of South Australia, to come up with a proposal to instigate the Afghan Community Service Hub.

The Afghan community recognised the efforts by the Marshall Liberal Government for standing in solidarity with their community and acting quickly to fund this important Afghan Community Service Hub when our Afghan community members needed urgent support and assistance at a terrible and challenging time.

The Afghan Community Service Hub is based at the Australian Migrant Resource Centre to help members of the Afghan community easily find updated and reliable information on the current crisis in Afghanistan. Through funding support by the former Marshall Liberal Government, bilingual staff were employed, proficient in various languages and dialects to help all the Afghan community to apply for visas and address urgent needs in their languages. The Marshall Liberal Government was acknowledged as the first state in Australia to provide such intensive support for those most affected by the tragic events in Afghanistan.

Similarly, following Russia's shocking invasion of Ukraine early this year, the Marshall Liberal Government quickly established the Eastern European Conflict Mental Health Support Line in collaboration with Uniting Communities.

The former Liberal Government understood the significant impact that the invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine has had on our community and how deeply it has affected the mental health and wellbeing of Ukrainian community members. The support line brings together the skills and experience of mental health and counselling staff at Uniting Communities and provides in-language counselling over the phone and referrals to a range of vital services to help the Ukrainian community.

Both these initiatives show how important and necessary support for our refugee communities is. It has been heartening to see the flood of support and donations from the wider community for the newly arrived migrants and refugees from both Afghanistan and Ukraine in recent months. It is vital that these and other such initiatives continue and that South Australia provide support to our refugee communities.

In the spirit of healing, the Liberal Party is calling on the Malinauskas Labor Government to continue supporting the refugee communities in South Australia. We hope that the Government takes the opportunity during Refugee Week to learn from the hardships and experiences of our refugee communities so that we can work together to create a better and more inclusive society for our refugees. I commend the motion.