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Queenslanders unite to celebrate Refugee Week 2013

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Queenslanders unite to celebrate Refugee Week 2013 Thursday, 20 June 2013

Queenslanders 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 2013 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 Theophil Lazaro, who is of Burundian origin, born in Tanzania and now living in Brisbane. He said that living in Australia had allowed him to rebuild his life in a supportive community.

'I arrived as a refugee in 2009, and didn't know what to expect or who would welcome me. I have settled in now and am so excited about becoming an Australian citizen this week - in fact it will be the first time I have been a citizen of any country,' Mr Lazaro said.

He has been busy giving back to newly arrived communities too by working in multicultural health education through The Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland.

In Brisbane, two special citizenship ceremonies are being staged, on June 22 and 23, both with about 50 conferees. A total of 24 nationalities are being represented, including a large number of people coming from refugee backgrounds.

In Far North Queensland, Cairns refugee communities will be showcasing cultural performances and sharing their stories to mark the day on June 20.

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 13:43 AEST