Voice for the vulnerable
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...