What do comedian Anh Do, sports commentator Les Murray and scientist Gus Nossal have in common? They’ve all made an invaluable contribution to Australian society, and they all also happen to have come here as refugees.
This week – June 15 to 21 – is Refugee Week, time to recognise and celebrate the contribution of an often marginalised and maligned group.
“Refugees have always been an integral part of the fabric of Australian society, and they’ve helped shaped our country into what is it today,” says Australian Red Cross Acting CEO Noel Clement. “Red Cross knows from first hand experience about the invaluable contribution refugees make in communities across our country – and it’s something everyone needs to remember in the midst of public debate, which often demonizes refugees and asylum seekers.”
Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their home country to seek asylum for fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, social background or political opinions. It is internationally accepted, and agreed, that people can and do cross borders and seek asylum in other countries. According to UNHCR there were more than 15.4 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2012.
“In our experience refugees and asylum seekers, despite the hardships they have experienced, generally have the strength and skills they need to re-establish their lives,” says Mr Clement. “But in order to rebuild those lives they need support and access to services to help them make informed decisions, and find opportunities and sustainable solutions for their future.
“We must make sure people are given that support and access – without discrimination, irrespective of their legal status, how they arrived in Australia or their stage in the visa determination process.”
Red Cross urges the Australian community and decision makers to ensure they’re truly informed about the realities facing people seeking asylum in our country. We must not turn our backs on the humanity or the suffering of people seeking the right to live without the threat of death and violence.
To carry out its work Red Cross relies on committed volunteers and donors. If you would like to volunteer or donate to support our everyday work please visit www.redcross.org.au or call 1800 811 700.