Flag raising ceremony marks start of Refugee Week in Ballarat.

BALLARAT has a long history of welcoming refugees and that positive past was celebrated at yesterday’s Refugee Week launch.

Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council chairman Fr Constantine Osuchukwu said the week was a chance for the community to pause and understand the plight and challenges of refugees in our community.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to invite the community to take a positive action to help our refugees to settle in to our community and acknowledge our country is very welcoming.”

FLAGGED: Cr Belinda Coates and Fr Constantine Osuchukwu raise the flag to celebrate the start of National Refugee Week. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

FLAGGED: Cr Belinda Coates and Fr Constantine Osuchukwu raise the flag to celebrate the start of National Refugee Week. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

Fr Osuchukwu told the gathered crowd that the theme for Refugee Week – with courage let us all combine – was taken from the second verse of Australia’s national anthem.

“It celebrates the courage of refugees and people who speak up against injustice uniting and the positive action to encourage all of us to improve the welcome for refugees.”

A program of events including morning teas, luncheons, breakfasts, a film festival and many library activities, runs in Ballarat throughout the week.

Among the crowd were members of the Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children group, clad in their trademark purple, who attended the launch to quietly make their point about the ongoing detention of children.

“There are still children in detention on Nauru so whenever we can we get out and let people know. We still demonstrate, we’re still out in the community and there’s a reason why – because children are still in detention,” said group spokeswoman Cath McDonald.

“Ballarat has a long tradition in welcoming refugees, particularly after the post-war migration boom … which reflects the Australian experience. Ballarat has always been welcoming and there’s never been any hint of racism or negativity that has really dominated the narrative,” said deputy major Mark Harris.