AS a refugee, Father Peter Kunen knows what it is like to be without a home.
That is why the Ballan Anglican priest wants to make sure the low-income residents of the embattled Ballan Caledonian Caravan Park do not lose their homes.
Father Kunen, who was forced to flee his home in what is now South Sudan at the age of 11, yesterday said everything should be done to help the park’s residents.
“These people are part of the Ballan community for a long time and asking them to leave is very hard,” Father Kunen said.
“We can’t abandon them.”
Father Kunen said as a refugee he felt the residents’ pain. All are set to lose their homes in July.
“I was in a refugee camp and I didn’t know where my home would be,” he said.
“I was miserable and I can feel the residents’ pain.”
The religious elder is one of the growing number of people who are pushing for a solution for the park.
About 20 residents will become homeless after the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) decided to close the park in July.
The DSE, which manages the land for the state government, is evicting the tenants because the caravan park does not comply with its permanent land-use policy.
Catholic Bishop of Ballarat Peter Connors said he was also concerned about the situation.
“If any kind of representation is made to the government by the people of Ballan I would be happy to support that,” Father Connors said.
Ballan Caledonian Caravan Park Steering Committee member Phil Keogh wrote to Father Kunen and Bishop Connors requesting their support. Mr Keogh said it was positive that the local churches were showing interest in the matter.
Moorabool mayor Pat Griffin said it was time the Minister for Environment Ryan Smith stepped in to help the residents from losing their homes.
“Time is running out for the these people,” Cr Griffin said.
A state government spokesperson said the Minister’s department was already working with the residents and the council on the site’s future and alternative accommodation.