Wow, lots of stuff about the Rahmati family floating around today. For those who haven’t spent much time receiving press releases or listening to news, this was the last family on Nauru. Not mind you, the last people there (as I mistakenly thought on first hearing the news) but the last actual immediate family unit. And they’ve just been released and chosen to make — where else?– Canberra their new home.
After listening to snippets of news yesterday, I knew they were being released. Obviously I didn’t hear this ABC story since the first I knew of them coming here was this press release from Stanhope’s office (no releases online yet):
29 June 2005
STANHOPE AND HARGREAVES WELCOME REFUGEE FAMILY
Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and Minister responsible for Multicultural Affairs John Hargreaves welcomed the Rahmati family to Canberra today.
Mr Stanhope said he hoped the family, who arrived in Canberra today after several years in detention on Nauru, would feel at home in the ACT.
â€œCanberrans are tremendously welcoming of refugees,â€ Mr Stanhope said. â€œThe Rahmatis have been through a traumatic ordeal and I hope Canberra â€“ its people, beautiful landscape and lifestyle â€“ can go some small way to healing their wounds.â€
Some ten families have moved to Canberra from detention on Nauru. Refugees who come to Canberra have access to accommodation support, English classes and medical treatment.
â€œThe ACT Government believes in protecting human rights,â€ Mr Stanhope said. â€œAnd that means everyoneâ€™s rights â€“ not only those people lucky enough to have been born in a wealthy country like Australia.
â€œWe have the sort of society that people aspire to live in â€“ which is all the more reason to share what we have.
â€œWe, in turn, enjoy the wonderful diversity that refugees and other migrants bring to our community. As families like the Rahmatis take their place in our city, our community life can only become richer.â€
Mr Hargreaves said all refugees deserve our support and welcome.
â€œFamilies like the Rahmatis have fled from some horrendous circumstances in their home countries and I am saddened by the fact that many refugees are denounced for exercising their rights under international law to flee from war and persecution to another country,â€ he said.
â€œUnfortunately, countless refugees around the world are still struggling to be accepted and continue to suffer from persecution, bigotry and uncertainty.
â€œI am proud to live in Canberra â€“ a truly refugee friendly city.â€
During their time in Canberra, the Rahmatis and other refugee families are entitled to support including:
â€¢ Access for adults to English language classes at the Canberra Institute of Technology;
â€¢ Provision of free child-care for those attending English classes;
â€¢ Ambulance treatment and support;
â€¢ Short-term accommodation on arrival in Canberra (the Rahmati family will not be needing this);
â€¢ Assistance with private rental bonds;
â€¢ Access to public school education;
â€¢ Access to the Unior Secondary Bursary Scheme, which provides financial support for dependent children in the junior high school years, and
â€¢ Access to interpreting services for those seeking access to ACT Government programs and services.
Later in the day I heard another story on ABC, with Katy Gallagher paraphrasing the dot points at the end of the above release. Basically it sounded to me like the Government was having a love-fest and saying they would provide everything to the Rahamtis.
However I soon learnt there was one participant missing: the big, meanie, churlish Opposition people had stopped our intrepid leader from attending the welcome function for this hard-done-by family (as per the following press release).
29 June 2005
CHIEF MINISTER DISAPPOINTED AT LIBERAL REFUSAL TO ALLOW HIM LEAVE TO GREET RAHMATI FAMILY
The refusal of the Liberal Party to allow the Chief Minister leave from the Assembly today to welcome the Rahmati family to Canberra was at best churlish and at worst a sign that the Liberal Opposition really had no understanding of the deep trauma visited upon the family by the Howard Governmentâ€™s â€˜Pacific Solutionâ€™ policies on asylum-seekers.
â€œI was deeply disappointed this morning by Opposition Whip Vicki Dunneâ€™s refusal to grant me a â€˜pairâ€™, allowing me to briefly leave the Chamber to greet the Rahmati family and welcome them to the national capital,â€ Mr Stanhope said.
â€œThis is a family that has spent more than three years in detention for the sin of desiring a better and more peaceful life for themselves and a better future for their children. Imagine the horror of the Rahmatis when they found that the hand held out to them by the Howard Government was not a hand of friendship, but a hand holding open a gate to three years of incarceration.
â€œI am extremely proud that of the nine families of asylum-seekers from Afghanistan who have been given shelter and support here in Canberra in recent years almost every one has chosen to make this city home.
â€œI believe it is a mark of the generally compassionate nature of Canberrans that we are able to empathise with the plight of these families, that we are able to see ourselves in their eyes, to imagine ourselves in their stead, and to recognise our responsibility to welcome them and encourage them to make this city their home.
â€œI trust that the Rahmati family will find a warm welcome from their new neighbours and new friends, and that the Rahmati children will be able, at last, to resume their interrupted childhoods.â€
So the ending to this story seems to be that somewhere in Canberra tonight an Afghani family are resting their heads in peace and comfort after the disappointment of not having met the Chief Minister today but possibly having met many other people instead and discovering the government will provide all. Isn’t that lovely?