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Transcript of joint remarks: Parliament House, Canberra: 11 September 2015: roundtable meeting with community organisations; humanitarian crisis in Syria

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11 September 2015





I thank all of you for your presence here today.

We all know that the situation in Syria and Iraq is dire. It’s diabolical inside Syria, it’s dire on the borders of Syria and that’s why, amongst many other things, the Australian Government announced a couple of days ago that we would take an additional 12,000 people displaced by the conflict in Syria and bring them to this country for permanent resettlement.

This is the kind of thing that Australia has done before, although obviously it is on unprecedented scale because of the nature of this particular conflict and the fact that there are many communities, many ancient communities, in this part of the Middle East which realistically have no hope of returning to their home given the developments that we’ve seen.

There are two fundamental purposes to this particular meeting. The first is to thank all of you - representatives of our community - for your offers of help. Certainly your offers of help made it easier for the Government to make the decision that we made because we knew that there were people in our community with practical experience of helping to resettle people in our country who were there rallying to help those who we were proposing to bring in.

The second thing, I suppose, is to just stress that all of us now have to work together so that the people that we do bring into our country will have the best possible experience so that it will be good for them and good for our country as a whole. Obviously the Australian Government has no wish to see anyone fleeing anywhere but given that people are fleeing, it is very important that we focus on those persecuted minorities, on women, children, and families because they are the most vulnerable people in a conflict such as this.

Obviously, many of my ministers have been working very hard over the last few days. I want to say how proud I am of Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison and Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells. Peter has done sterling work overseas. Scott and Connie have been doing great work with you so that we’re in the best possible position to receive people in this country. I am very, very proud of the work that my senior colleagues have been doing in recent days.

I also want to say how magnificently our community as a whole has responded to the developing crisis in Syria and on that note I might ask Paris Aristotle to say a few words.


Thank you, Prime Minister. If I could just start off by thanking you personally and I’m sure from the conversations I’ve had on behalf of everybody in this room, and on behalf of all of the refugees that we’ve settled here so far but in particular the 12,000 that we’re about to begin settling out of Syria. It’s an incredibly powerful humanitarian gesture on the part of the Government and one that I think everybody applauds. If I could echo your congratulations and thanks of Minister Dutton and Minister Morrison and Senator Fierravanti-Wells who I know have been working incredibly hard on this with you.

So, it’s an extraordinary thing to think that there will be 12,000 people whose lives will be literally saved from a miserable set of circumstances that are not of their making and they will be brought to a country like Australia where they will be able to be embraced and looked after and fashioned a new, hopeful, bright future for themselves and their families. I want to say that we are the best country in the world at resettling refugees.

The quality of our services are second to none and that’s been mentioned on several occasions at the UN by Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees. I think you can be confident that the good will of those settlement services and with all the church agencies that are around here today, we will be able to put together a package of services and a programme that builds on what we already have to ensure people are well looked after, that they can function, they can move on into education and employment and get on with contributing to Australia as well as establishing a brighter future for themselves.

It’s an incredibly positive thing that the Government has done and I can’t thank you enough for doing it.


Thank you so much, Paris.