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Victorians unite to celebrate Refugee Week 2013

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Victorians unite to celebrate Refugee Week 2013

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Victorians will join together to celebrate the contribution of refugees to Australian communities as part of World Refugee Day 2013 today.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Brendan O'Connor, and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, said as well as marking the rich diversity of refugee communities around the country, there is an extra occasion to celebrate, with the settlement of 800 000 refugees and humanitarian entrants in Australia since World War II.

Refugee Week, which coincides with World Refugee Day on June 20, has been celebrated in Australia since the 1980s, and in Victoria a wide range of community events and activities are planned in celebration.

Mr O'Connor said the week's celebration - from June 16-22 - was a unique opportunity to recognise the plight of refugees around the world and acknowledge the contribution made by government and non-government organisations to assist refugees to contribute to Australian society.

'Australia has a long and proud history as a refugee resettlement country and a cooperative international partner, which is demonstrated by the settlement of 800 000 refugee and humanitarian entrants under the humanitarian program,' Mr O'Connor said.

'The Gillard government is committed to ensuring that people settling here have the help they need to rebuild their lives and become active participants in the community, and this week is an important time not only to recognise this commitment, but also the diversity which has grown through the humanitarian program.'

Senator Lundy said Australia's resettlement tradition was integral to providing new opportunities for those in humanitarian need.

'The contributions of people settled under Australia's humanitarian program are enormous in both economic and social spheres, and this week is an important occasion to reflect on the amazing impact these entrants have had in carving Australia's identity,' Senator Lundy said.

One of the people who has benefited from Australia's humanitarian program is Sami Mohseni, whose family came from Afghanistan and now live in Geelong. Mr Mohseni

has worked as a mediator for the diverse Afghan community in Geelong since he and his family became the first Afghans to settle there in 2004.

Despite his then-limited English, Mr Mohseni earned his Master of Automotive Engineering and now works for Diversitat, helping newly arrived refugees and humanitarian entrants tackle the challenges of settlement.

'I encourage our Afghan community to remain united. When we are together, it's easier for all of us to talk about any issues, and we are stronger,' he said.

Among the highlight events in Melbourne, some 60 people from nine countries will become Australian citizens at a Western Bulldogs Football Club ceremony co-hosted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the club's Whitten Oval headquarters on June 22.

Australia's contribution to international protection and humanitarian efforts continues this year, with 20 000 people to be welcomed through the humanitarian program in 2013-14.

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URL: Last update: Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 12:41 AEST