Re­set­tle here

Coun­cil­lor wants Ber­ri­gan Shire to re-home refugees

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - By James Ben­nett

Ber­ri­gan Shire should be con­sid­ered as a refugee set­tle­ment area.

That is what Cr Bernard Curtin is ask­ing the coun­cil to in­ves­ti­gate and ad­vo­cate, say­ing it could of­fer growth and di­ver­sity for the re­gion. He raised the is­sue at last week’s Ber­ri­gan Shire Coun­cil meet­ing.

Cr Curtin has raised his idea on the back of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment it will close its Manus Is­land de­ten­tion cen­tre this week.

Lo­cated in Pa­pua New Guinea, Manus Is­land is re­ported to have held 700 im­mi­grants who had at­tempted to en­ter Aus­tralia.

Cr Curtin urged coun­cil to seek fund­ing which may help the shire re-home th­ese and other refugees.

‘‘I would like to see where we as a coun­cil sit, with ap­proach­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and ask­ing what pos­si­ble grants we might re­ceive or ben­e­fits we could get from re­set­tle­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘There is a com­pas­sion­ate level to all this; th­ese peo­ple are gen­uine refugees not some that have at­tempted to ar­rive here il­le­gally by boat.

‘‘And it’s im­por­tant to the pop­u­la­tion growth of the shire. We need work­ers help­ing dairy farm­ers and driv­ing trac­tors.

‘‘I would like us to talk to Peter Dut­ton (Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion) per­son­ally, not pub­lic ser­vants.

‘‘I brought this is­sue up a while ago, and will need to present more at the Fe­bru­ary meet­ing.’’

Ber­ri­gan Shire direc­tor of cor­po­rate ser­vices Matt Hansen said the coun­cil must be cer­tain the com­mu­nity has the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sup­port the refugees be­fore it de­cides whether to pur­sue a lo­cal re­set­tle­ment project.

Based on the ‘ Refugee Set­tle­ment in Re­gional Ar­eas: Ev­i­dence-based good prac­tice’ doc­u­ment pre­pared for the NSW Depart­ment of Premier and Cabi­net by refugee con­sul­tant Mar­garet Piper, Mr Hansen said coun­cil would also need to pro­vide a hu­man­i­tar­ian set­tle­ment pro­gram that would in­clude English pro­grams, a refugee health ser­vice and spe­cial­ist sup­port for trauma.

‘‘Some of th­ese refugees have come from very harsh back­grounds, so we would need bet­ter men­tal health ser­vices,’’ Mr Hansen said.

‘‘I un­der­stand the sym­pa­thy and sen­ti­ment but it’s not prac­ti­cal for those com­ing to move here un­less we as a com­mu­nity can pro­vide the ser­vices they need.’’

Cr Curtin said he be­lieved Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance can also be ob­tained to pro­vide the ser­vices.

Mr Hansen said the other ob­sta­cle to Cr Curtin’s re­quest were plans for a soon-to-be­launched Re­gional Refugee Re­set­tle­ment pro­gram for the Rive­rina Mur­ray to tar­get Al­bury and Wagga.

‘‘They are work­ing on plans to boost as­so­ci­ated ser­vices in those places to make sure re­set­tle­ment is a suc­cess,’’ he said.

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