Interest about our expected new arrivals is increasing and many people are wondering just how they can help to settle these refugees. A few are puzzled and even hesitant about the benefits to Armidale.
This settlement of refugees will be a very positive step for our town. We can now look forward to increased growth and financial benefits. More people means more jobs. More teachers, supermarket staff, brick layers, etc will be needed. More empty properties will be rented. Perhaps empty shops re-opened. Armidale will become a richer town and all of us will benefit.
But the benefits will not only be financial. We know the social benefits of having a multicultural town and learning from each other. After all our favourite foods of pizza and pasta owe much to refugee intake!
Two groups of refugees are expected to arrive in Armidale in the near future i.e. later this year 40 Rohingyans from Myanmar and early next year 200 Syrian or Iraqi refugees. The settlement needs of the two groups will be different.
The Rohingyans have been released from their stay in detention centres and are temporarily living in Sydney. The government requires that they move to a rural town. Armidale is just one of many settlement towns.
They already have some familiarity with Australian life. Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement, a very experienced voluntary settlement organisation, is taking on the full settlement responsibility for these people.
The larger group of refugees are coming to Armidale directly from their overseas camp situations. They will need considerable early support. Settlement Services International (SSI), a government-contracted service, is taking on the primary responsibility for their settlement. Several government and other contracted services will also play an important role as will our Armidale Regional Council. Preparation by these groups is well underway.
As already arranged, Armidale Sanctuary will help the Syrian or Iraqi settlers in minor ways if and when asked by SSI. Help, for example, could mean finding some extra furniture items, assisting children with homework, explaining goods on supermarket shelves.
Sanctuary will coordinate individual volunteers to assist both groups. This coordination will mean that people don’t stumble over each other in their wish to be helpful. Of course all residents are encouraged to welcome and be friendly towards the incoming refugees. Probably sport, religious, service, student, women’s and other groups will also wish to extend friendship.
Sanctuary, for both groups of arrivals (Rohingyans and Syrian/Iraqis), will arrange 2 or more volunteers to welcome, befriend and support each family. Community members who wish to help in this way will need to join the Sanctuary organisation, be registered as a volunteer and obtain a current government working with children check. They will have the opportunity of attending a free program to help them understand the different cultural backgrounds and effects of persecution.
Interested people should contact Armidale Sanctuary. They can do this by writing to PO Box 1499 or phoning the president Lucinda Wright (6772 1716) or secretary Priscilla Connor (6772 2217).