Voice for the vul­ner­a­ble

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - by KYLIE WIL­SON

FOR over five years, Ch­es­ney Vale woman Freida An­drews has been work­ing with and ad­vo­cat­ing for peo­ple who have come to Aus­tralia in search of a bet­ter life.

Freida said she is among those in the North East con­tin­u­ally work­ing to raise pub­lic aware­ness of the hard­ships en­dured by refugees and asy­lum seek­ers.

She is so pas­sion­ate about the is­sue that she founded the North­ern Vic­to­ria Refugee Sup­port Net­work to bet­ter con­nect the many com­mu­nity groups and or­gan­i­sa­tions across the re­gion who are work­ing to ad­dress and im­prove the sit­u­a­tion for refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum.

The net­work fa­cil­i­tates com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing be­tween com­mu­nity groups, sup­port­ing them to raise the pro­file of refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum.

The net­work also works within a long term per­spec­tive to de­velop and im­ple­ment strate­gies that en­sure that a hu­mane, com­pas­sion­ate ap­proach is taken to meet their needs.

Freida said there is a lot of great work be­ing done by var­i­ous grass­roots groups around the re­gion.

“This firmly demon­strates how con­cerned the ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians are about this is­sue,” she said.

A reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum be­ing de­tained at Mel­bourne Im­mi­gra­tion Tran­sit Ac­com­mo­da­tion (MITA), she said she has seen se­cu­rity mea­sures con­tin­u­ally tighten around vis­it­ing, im­pact­ing neg­a­tively on not just the de­tainees them­selves, but also the mem­bers of the com­mu­nity – in­clud­ing fam­ily mem­bers - vis­it­ing them.

“How Aus­tralia uses de­ten­tion is a ma­jor con­cern for me per­son­ally,” Freida said.

“I think most Aus­tralians would say ‘we can do this bet­ter’.

“I be­lieve that fear has be­come a large is­sue when it comes to refugees,” she said, adding that our cur­rent po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment sup­ports this. “It’s a global prob­lem,” Freida said. “It’s a com­pli­cated is­sue that is not go­ing to go away.”

Freida added that bring­ing refugees and asy­lum seek­ers into com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly ru­ral ar­eas, can have a wide range of ben­e­fits for those com­mu­ni­ties and for so­ci­ety as a whole.

“Our whole so­ci­ety is built on the value of ‘ do­ing unto oth­ers as we would have done unto our­selves,” she said.

De­scrib­ing her­self as a “per­pet­ual stu­dent”, Freida said she is al­ways ea­ger to learn more about the sit­u­a­tion in or­der to help refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum.

The net­work has helped or­gan­ise a num­ber of rel­e­vant events dur­ing its his­tory, in­clud­ing an event which fea­tured fed­eral politi­cian Tim Watts (MHR, Gel­li­brand) as guest speaker, which was held in Wan­garatta last Novem­ber.

He spoke of the need to sup­port peo­ple in refugee camps in our re­gion, and the im­por­tance of work­ing to im­prove re­set­tle­ment in Aus­tralia, and re­ferred to the Cana­dian model of spon­sor­ship as one that could be ap­plied here.

Freida said rep­re­sen­ta­tives from groups within the net­work will travel to Can­berra in March to meet with fed­eral politi­cians.

Shey said they will be ask­ing them to work to­wards ad­dress­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and in­tro­duc­ing a sys­tem which treats refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum with re­spect and dig­nity as fel­low hu­man be­ings.

She said Cathy McGowan MP, Fed­eral Mem­ber for Indi at­tends reg­u­lar pub­lic meet­ings or­gan­ised by the Net­work.

The next meet­ing is be­ing hosted by Ru­ral Aus­tralians for Refugees, Be­nalla and will be held at 3pm on Tues­day, March 6.

Those in­ter­ested in find­ing out more about the prob­lems faced by refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum also have the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend the Ru­ral Aus­tralians for Refugees Con­fer­ence, with speak­ers in­clud­ing Ju­lian Burnside AO QC, Corinne Grant, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Gil­lian Triggs and more, in Wodonga on April 6-8.

Bookings for the con­fer­ence can be made on www.try­book­ing.com/ TIMV.

Those wish­ing to find out more about the North­ern Vic­to­ria Refugee Sup­port Net­work and get in­volved in a group in their lo­cal area can con­tact Freida An­drews on (03) 57652476.

GLOBAL VIEW: Freida An­drews is com­mit­ted to rais­ing aware­ness about the plight of refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum. PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

DIS­CUSSING THE IS­SUE: Tim Watts (MHR, Gel­li­brand) was in­vited to Wan­garatta in late 2017 to dis­cuss con­di­tions in refugee camps in our re­gion and op­tions for re­set­tle­ment. The event was hosted by Ru­ral Aus­tralians for Refugees, Wan­garatta and the...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.