Southern Riverina news

Region reaches out to Ukraine

- By Zoe McMaugh

District farmers, businesses and community members with job and rental vacancies are being asked to come forward to support a humanitari­an mission.

Edward River Council has started discussion­s with relevant agencies to re-home displaced Ukrainians.

The council has also involved Blighty dairy farmer Lachlan Marshall in the discussion­s.

Mr Marshall said he would be willing to take on any refugee who would come to the region, and was excited about the prospect of a Ukrainian community in Blighty and district.

As well as a way for the region to assist Ukrainians who have fled to Australia to escape war, the mission is also intended to fill a local skills shortage and boost the regional economy.

The effort was launched earlier this year, prompted by a compassion­ate appeal from Deniliquin’s Bill Hetheringt­on.

Edward River Council general manager Phil Stone said after a number of discussion­s, council will soon meet with the Ukrainian Associatio­n of Victoria.

“The last time I spoke to them (the Associatio­n) they told me they had a number of Ukrainian families living in backpacker accommodat­ion in Melbourne,” Mr Stone said.

“Council is simply trying to facilitate what we see as a good idea.

“If it comes off it will have a good impact on the local economy, but is also a humanitari­an gesture from this community.”

With accommodat­ion availabili­ty one of the biggest hurdles in the process, Mr Marshall said he was willing to consider building accommodat­ion on his property for families who take up the offer to relocate.

“There is plenty of work to go around, and I have already supplied council with position descriptio­ns to support their investigat­ions,” Mr Marshall said.

“The Ukrainian people are in need, and we’re in need here.

“We’re screaming out for skilled people in agricultur­e, and in the dairy industry.

“And if we can create a bit of a Ukrainian community in Blighty, I’m all for it.

“I am very optimistic about this proposal and am keen to help the people of Ukraine to start again.

“I am also keen to see this district grow, and these families from Ukraine could help us achieve that.”

Mr Hetheringt­on approached council in February after seeing the atrocities being experience­d in Ukraine, and the mass exodus of its people to other countries to escape war.

After learning several thousand had made their way to Australia he starting doing some research, and he believes the Ukrainians could provide as much benefit to the local area as we can for them.

“Like everyone else, I kept asking myself what more any of us could be doing every time I saw the horrendous things the people of that country are going through. They are being murdered,” Mr Hetheringt­on said.

“So I went and spoke with council, and in my research I discovered that Ukraine is an agricultur­al and industriou­s country.

“They are first in the world in the export of sunflowers and sunflower oil, second in the world for barley and the fourth largest producer of potatoes in the world, among other things.

“This region is at a standstill because of the shortage of labour and industry, so surely this is something that can not only help us but the refugees as well.

“I thank Edward River Council and its general manager Phil Stone for the work they have put in to this already, and I really hope we can do something and it works.

“Towns like Griffith and Leeton were built on the back of long-term migrants, and they are thriving.”

If you can assist, please contact Edward River Council on (03) 5898 3000.

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