Refugees fleeing war-ravaged Syria have begun arriving in Wagga where they will seek to rebuild their lives.
It is the final stop in a long journey to safety that five million Syrians will make this year, seeking safety from ISIS, the Syrian government, rebel factions, foreign bombing runs and widespread violence in the streets.
Associate Professor Alison Gerard, director of Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Law and Justice, said while refugees had become global political talking points, it was important to remember they were just regular people who couldn’t go home.
“We see the Syrian civil war on TV but the reality is millions of people are crossing borders into neighbouring countries and entering camps that are crowded, dangerous places – especially for vulnerable people like women and children,” Associate Professor Gerard said.
“We’re a safe, wealthy country and we’re being a good global citizen by taking 12,000 of those refugees in.”
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said Wagga was a very welcoming community, as was the western Riverina.
“Not only will these people be made to feel welcome, they will settle into the community and contribute,” Mr McCormack said.
“This has been a caring, compassionate community for decades and I’m sure these people will appreciate a new start, having come from war-torn, fractured societies to a caring one.
“To those who think less of the refugees coming here and want to be negative, I suggest they do something other than being spiteful.”
Tim O'Connor, Acting CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, said many refugees had difficult experiences at home and on their journeys to Australia.
“The best thing you can do is welcome them into your homes, communities, schools and workplaces so that they can settle into their new home,” he said.
“This might include inviting someone over for dinner or a cup of tea, offering kids extra help with their homework, or just generally showing patience and compassion.”
According to Mr O’Connor, individuals and communities repeatedly tell the refugee council that when people of refugee background are welcomed into Australian communities and supported in their resettlement, they go on to thrive, integrate and contribute.
“As a group, people of refugee background generally have excellent employment and educational outcomes,” Mr O’Connor said.
“People coming to Australia as refugees, therefore, need a warm welcome from their host communities, and the support of our excellent settlement services in order to thrive.
“Australia's settlement services and programs are among the best in the world.”