Refugee Welcome Zone declaration for Ballina Shire

WELCOME: Members of the Ballina Region for Refugees would like to asylum seekers welcomed into the community (from left) Ballina Shire Citizen of the Year Mary O’Brien, Anne Shay, Penny Chapman, John Kelly and Sue Kelly
WELCOME: Members of the Ballina Region for Refugees would like to asylum seekers welcomed into the community (from left) Ballina Shire Citizen of the Year Mary O’Brien, Anne Shay, Penny Chapman, John Kelly and Sue Kelly Graham Broadhead

BALLINA Shire Mayor David Wright will sign a refugee welcome declaration for the shire at a World Refugee Day event at Ballina on Saturday.

Cr Wright, who at this year's Ballina Shire Australia Day ceremony was critical of the Federal Government's treatment of asylum-seekers, will put his signature to the Refugee Welcome Zone for Ballina Shire, joining more than 100 local government areas around Australia.

The move is Cr Wright's version of a "captain's call", but said it would not mean an influx of refugees into the area.

The welcome zone declaration is an initiative of the Refugee Council of Australia which began in 2002.

It symbolises that the shire has, according to the refugee council website, "made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community".

Sue Kelly from the group Ballina Region for Refugees has welcomed the move, which also follows the State Government's in-principle support for the Federal Safe Haven Enterprise Visa scheme, which would give people assessed to be refugees the opportunity to gain five-year visa if they are prepared to work or study outside of cities.

Ms Kelly last year took part in a section of a protest walk from Sydney to Canberra highlighting the plight of asylum seekers.

She then organised an information and film night at Lennox Head, from which the group Ballina Region for Refugees was formed.

The apolitical group has organised an art exhibition in Ballina to celebrate World Refugee Day.

The exhibition will be held in the Richmond Room this Saturday, June 20, from noon to late - with the mayor to sign the declaration at 6pm.



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