Group calls for Manus men

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 17-Nov-2017

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Nay Chee Aung, Zahir Azimi, Kaye Graves, Helen Kapalos and Sam Almalik.
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MEMBERS of the Loddon Mallee Regional Advisory Council are formally requesting to resettle within the region up to 300 refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island.

At the inaugural meeting of the council, Victorian Multicultural Commission chairperson Helen Kapalos said council members asked the commission to write a collective letter to Victorian premier Daniel Andrews asking that he reaffirm his commitment to resettling people from Manus Island.

Ms Kapalos said the request would be presented to VMC commissioners.

Loddon Mallee could also be a candidate location to settle Assyrian families who arrived in Australia as part of an humanitarian intake.

Most of the families were farmers in their home country and their experience could be utilised in Australian agriculture.

“They want to know is there any way we can have subsidies from government, is there any way we can seek partnerships in regional areas to look at furthering our prospects in regional resettlement,” Ms Kapalos said.

“We are in the process of conducting several bus tours and we are hoping that Bendigo can be introduced and certainly in this meeting it was flagged with us by the group that Bendigo would like to be part of it.

“Mildura certainly is part of it.”

The council, which covers an area including the Macedon Ranges, Bendigo, Swan Hill and Mildura, has been formed to advise the commission on issues within the region.

Council member and settlement services worker Nay Chee Aung said the acquisition of English language skills was critical to people settling well in the area.

Mr Aung said access to interpreters was also important, particularly when new arrivals were accessing health, legal and community services, “in areas where miscommunication could lead to something terrible”.

Colleague Zahir Azimi said he thought the biggest challenge for people was finding work.

As a settlement services worker, Mr Azimi was helping with employment even if it was not part of his job, but he said there was a bigger challenge of finding meaningful work.

“That is why unfortunately we are losing some families, they are relocating to some other areas because of employment,” he said.

VMC commissioner Sam Almaliki said the council would meet three or four times a year in different regional centres.

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