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Tasmanians unite to mark Refugee Week 2013



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Tasmanians unite to mark Refugee Week 2013 Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tasmanians 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 a wide range of community events and activities are planned in Tasmania 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 to have benefited from Australia's humanitarian program is Yonas Mezengi, originally from Eritrea but now living in Hobart. He said living in Australia had allowed him, his wife and their children to rebuild their lives in a supportive community.

Having secured a future in his preferred profession as a qualified electrician, Mr Mezengi said his family now had hopes for a brighter future in their new country, and were even getting involved in local sporting teams.

'My sons enjoy playing soccer here, while my wife has joined a basketball team,' Mr Mezengi said.

In Sandy Bay, the Tasmanian Centre for Global Learning will screen a film about an award-winning band from Sierra Leone today while Walk Together 2013 participants will walk from Parliament House to the Baha'i Centre in Hobart at 1pm as part of a national welcome 'for those who have come across the sea'.

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.

See: Index of Media Releases

URL: http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/bo/2013/bo204675.htm Last update: Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 13:08 AEST

One person who has benefited from Australia's humanitarian program is Perth resident Muny Chhea, who came to Australia from a refugee camp in Thailand 27 years ago, and is now comfortably settled and married with two children.

'Australia gave me a chance to have a new life and the opportunity to live freely,' Mr Chhea said.

The highlight events include the Walk Together event at the Esplanade in Fremantle on June 22 with entertainment including a refugee welcome fiesta, music and food.

Organisers say Walk Together celebrates diversity and presents a picture to the country's leaders and media of an Australia that is possible, one that recognises that 'if we're all people, we're all equal'.

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.

See: Index of Media Releases

URL: http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/bo/2013/bo204683.htm Last update: Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 13:23 AEST