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New South Wales unites to celebrate Refugee Week 2013

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New South Wales unites to celebrate Refugee Week 2013 Thursday, 20 June 2013

People across New South Wales 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, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, and Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs Senator Matt Thistlethwaite, said as well as marking the contribution and 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 New South Wales 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 work of both 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 central 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.

Senator Thistlethwaite said Refugee Week offered an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of refugees to Australia.

'The stories of humanitarian entrants who have created success and new lives in New South Wales are numerous and Refugee Week is the perfect occasion to celebrate these individuals,' Mr Thistlethwaite said.

One of the people who has benefited from Australia's humanitarian program is Aminata Conteh Biger, originally from Sierra Leone and now living in the Sydney suburb of Belmore. Ms Biger came to Australia in 2000 along with her sister after fleeing war in her country.

'I was fortunate enough to meet my husband here and now have a baby daughter and a successful life,' she said.

Ms Conteh Biger, who is an ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, is starring in a major Sydney theatre production about her and is setting up a new venture to help address infant mortality in Sierra Leone.

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 13:22 AEST