The Welcome Declaration is a signal and a promise to refugees that they are welcome and safe in the Mansfield Shire.
The signing of the declaration by the Mayor Paul Volkering was followed by a screening of the film ‘Constance on the Edge’.
Filmed over 10 years, the movie tells the story of a refugee family from Sudan living in Wagga Wagga.
Described as an “unflinchingly honest portrayal of one refugee family’s resettlement in Australia”, the film was equal parts despair and hope, following the harrowing pasts, uncertain futures and life-affirming triumphs of the family.
“In Africa I was fighting for survival; in the refugee camp I was fighting for human rights and here in Australia, I’m fighting for belonging,” explains Constance Okot, the film’s main character.
President of Mansfield Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) Marie Sellstrom said she hoped the movie would help give meaning to the occasion.
“We hope this movie helps our understanding of the refugee situation in Australia, the struggle they have had in reaching this country and the enormous difference a welcoming community can make,” Ms Sellstrom said.
“As a Welcome Zone we are symbolically opening our arms and our hearts to people who have come to Australia seeking our protection so that they can enjoy this wonderful district and the hospitality of the residents,” said Ms Sellstrom.
“Over the past two and a half years we have hosted refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar and Syria.
“They have all told us how much they love this area and how wonderful is the welcome they have received, so it is fitting that the Mansfield Shire Council has shown leadership by declaring their support.
“Thank you to the members of RAR Mansfield, to the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Church communities for their support for the declaration of Mansfield as a Welcome Zone.”
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has praised Mansfield for demonstrating community leadership by becoming the latest to join the Refugee Welcome Zone initiative.
“A Refugee Welcome Zone is a local government area that makes a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community and acknowledges the positive contribution refugees make to society,” said RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power.
“Since Federation, Australia has welcomed more than 800,000 refugees and local councils have a proud history of helping support the settlement of refugees who have gone on to make a profound contribution to our economic, cultural and social life.”