A KEY agent in resettlement says the arrival of about 200 refugees in Armidale creates exciting opportunities and he hopes residents will “extend a hand of friendship to the newcomers”.
Co-ordinator General of Refugee Resettlement for NSW, Peter Shergold, said he’d met with community leaders many times during the past 18 months.
“[They] have argued very strongly that they are able to make small but significant contribution … and I am delighted now that their voice has been heard,” Professor Shergold said.
The federal government announced yesterday the Iraqi and Syrian refugees would be settled in the city next year, after lobbying from advocacy groups and the council.
“I think Armidale did a remarkable job over the last year at showing – at the level of local government, of the university, of the schools and the TAFE and the community broadly – that there was a real interest in providing support to a refugee intake,” Professor Shergold said.
“Certainly as the co-ordinator general in NSW, I was very persuaded by their arguments – and I presume now that the commonwealth was swayed as well.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Social Services Minister Christian Porter and Social Services Assistant Minister Zed Seselja made the announcement today in Armidale.
The refugees will be primarily drawn from persecuted minorities from Syria and Iraq.
“The government has focused on resettling women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes,” Senator Seselja said.
Professor Shergold said Armidale residents could expect to see their new neighbours make increasing contributions to the city.
“A refugee does not to come to Australia to live on welfare; they come to build new opportunities for themselves and their children, and employment and education are the key to that,” he said.
“Many of these refugees work hard, build family businesses, start to employ other Australians and give back to the Australian community, and that is what I would anticipate over time in Armidale.”