Ballarat forum gets an insight into the lives of refugees

MORE than 100 people joined a forum on refugees and asylum seekers in Ballarat on Saturday, hearing from campaigners and advocates.

Organised by Ballarat’s Sisters of Mercy in conjunction with Together in Mercy and local service organisations, the forum included presentations by Asylum Seeker Resource Centre director Pamela Curr, Jesuit priest and social justice advocate Father Andrew Hamilton and Centacare Ballarat policy coordinator Damien McCartin.

Event co-ordinator David MacPhail said participants benefited from a better understanding of what life as a refugee or asylum seeker in Australia was like and how communities like Ballarat might better respond to the needs of others.

Ms Curr praised participants for spending their Saturday morning discussing the longstanding public policy challenge.

“Ballarat, like many places in Australia, has a long history of being very generous to asylum seekers who live in the community, including Afghanis, Iranian and Sudanese” Ms Curr said.

“The challenges faced by those people coming out of immigration detention are great, and without assistance for learning English or finding work, it is almost impossible for some.”

She said new arrivals in Ballarat would rely on the community for support, and businesses that could employ a newly arrived person or assist with transition were urgently required.

Other participants in the forum included representatives from Life Without Borders, Ballarat ARA Circle of Friends, Ballarat Region Multicultural Council and the Sudanese Society of Ballarat.

thomas.mcilroy@thecourier.com.au