Where will refugees live?

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

Dear ed­i­tor, In the SRN on Nov. 1, 2017 it was re­ported the coun­cil was asked to in­ves­ti­gate and ad­vo­cate the re­set­tle­ment of refugees in this re­gion.

The shire di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate ser­vices, Mr Hansen said coun­cil should con­sult the “Refugee set­tle­ment in ru­ral ar­eas” doc­u­ment pre­pared by the state gov­ern­ment and also seek help from refugee con­sul­tant, Ms Mar­garet Piper. It would pro­vide con­sid­er­able help and in­for­ma­tion, Mr Hansen said.

I don’t be­lieve they should con­sult ei­ther that doc­u­ment or Ms Piper, or the body she does or did rep­re­sent. In­stead the coun­cil should con­sult the shire res­i­dents.

Ms Piper is not only a refugee con­sul­tant but also a pas­sion­ate refugee ad­vo­cate.

What would these refugees work at here? I rarely see a job ad­ver­tised let alone a farm job as spo­ken about.

With the ex­cep­tion of the or­ange in­dus­try there is nei­ther fruit nor veg­eta­bles in this shire re­quir­ing hand care or har­vest.

Where will they live? Hous­ing has be­come scarce in Fin­ley with the de­mo­li­tion of houses built with as­bestos, and there are not a great num­ber in the other three towns.

Would new im­mi­grants like to live in oth­er­wise empty farm houses? No, they would find them iso­lated.

I know in some other towns they are ac­com­mo­dated in mo­tels. Will that be their fu­ture hous­ing?

Yes, they would con­trib­ute to the lo­cal econ­omy but I feel it will be in the form of wel­fare. And al­most with­out ex­cep­tion it is wel­fare and no work that de­grades peo­ple and so­ci­ety.

There has been re­cent pub­lic­ity on gov­ern­ment want­ing to move refugees to ru­ral ar­eas for a min­i­mum of five years upon their ar­rival in Aus­tralia. It’s clear they don’t want big­ger for­eign en­claves build­ing in the ma­jor ci­ties.

I won­der if there are con­fi­den­tial talks go­ing on between gov­ern­ment and the shire on this is­sue.

I ask coun­cil to open this sub­ject up to pub­lic dis­cus­sion. Yours etc. Gary Mexted Tocumwal Dear ed­i­tor, It’s about time Ber­ri­gan Shire Coun­cil lis­tened to the ex­perts and fam­i­lies dev­as­tated by il­licit drug use be­fore they dis­cuss the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the Straw­berry Fields Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

It is very dif­fi­cult read­ing the ar­ti­cles that fo­cus on the mone­tary spin off from this fes­ti­val — ‘Valu­able event’ (SRN 21/11/18 p1) — yet know­ing first hand of the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the drugs that are brought into our com­mu­nity. Whilst the head­line reads ‘Po­lice stats drop’ (SRN 21/11/18 p3), we read in the same ar­ti­cle that between the NSW and VIC po­lice road­side op­er­a­tion for this event, there were still 105 driv­ers de­tected with drugs. This week­end could be the most dan­ger­ous week­end of the year to be driv­ing a ve­hi­cle on a road in this area.

It would be pru­dent to there­fore dis­cour­age ‘all oth­ers’ from be­ing on these roads for the du­ra­tion of the fes­ti­val. Maybe they need to be re­minded of the po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing link between il­licit drug use and driv­ing a mo­tor ve­hi­cle. Whilst the ‘harm min­imi­sa­tion strat­egy’ of road­side test­ing is set up for se­lected pe­ri­ods of time over this week­end, not all driv­ers pass­ing through are tested nor does it test driv­ers pass­ing through out­side these pe­ri­ods.

As one of the emer­gency work­ers who pre­sented as a guest at the ICE Com­mu­nity fo­rums 2015, that the coun­cil over­saw, I am feel­ing quite con­fused that they granted ap­proval for this fes­ti­val. It seems quite a con­tra­dic­tion. This se­ries of fo­rums held in Ba­rooga, Tocumwal, Ber­ri­gan and Fin­ley were “…aimed at in­form­ing the broader com­mu­nity about the ef­fects of ICE on users and their fam­i­lies’’ (BSC Busi­ness Pa­per 20/05/2015 6.8).

At­ten­dees of the Ber­ri­gan event heard from a lo­cal mother about the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of ice on fam­i­lies and for­mer coun­cil mem­ber Brian Hill reaf­firmed this from his ex­pe­ri­ence as a drug and al­co­hol worker (SRN 22/04/2015). At the Fin­ley event Dr Alam Yousef talked about how the com­mu­nity must “. . . avert drug use” (SRN 20/05/2015). The coun­cil over­saw these drug fo­rums but now has given this fes­ti­val a five year DA ap­proval (De­niliquin Pas­toral Times 28/08/2018). This does not make sense.

As a para­medic, ev­ery year that I have been ros­tered on to look af­ter the lo­cal area for this week­end, I have had to at­tend this fes­ti­val to treat pa­tients suf­fer­ing the ill ef­fects of drugs or trans­port them for fur­ther in­ter­ven­tion to Shep­par­ton. This is de­spite the im­pres­sive on­site med­i­cal set up.

Judg­ing by the re­ports from po­lice, lo­cal hos­pi­tal staff and other paramedics who have worked in this area dur­ing the last 10 years, it would there­fore seem a rea­son­able con­clu­sion that the two are in­sep­a­ra­ble. So for a coun­cil which has a duty of care to the res­i­dents of this shire, why would you ap­prove a fes­ti­val that may bring more il­licit drugs to your ‘home turf’ and add to our ex­ist­ing lev­els?

Imag­ine if the coun­cil no longer gave ap­proval for this fes­ti­val? Yes the or­gan­is­ers would seek ap­proval else­where, but what if that next shire coun­cil also dis­ap­proved, and so forth?

Yes, as a shire, we would miss out on thou­sands of dol­lars it brings and no it won’t solve the ‘drug prob­lem’, but at least the coun­cil could hold their heads up know­ing they had done their bit to dis­cour­age il­licit drugs from our area. For our lo­cal kids not yet com­mit­ted to that cul­ture who are filled with cu­rios­ity, it might just be them who are saved from ex­per­i­ment­ing with these sub­stances.

Yes, they might try them else­where, but if there is no else­where nearby, maybe they won’t? As a para­medic on the front line of our bat­tle with il­licit drugs, I be­lieve this is a bet­ter ex­am­ple of a harm min­imi­sa­tion ap­proach to il­licit drug use. Yours etc. Mick Wane Fin­ley

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