MEMBERS STATEMENT | REFUGEE WEEK

Mr MELHEM (Western Metropolitan) — This sitting week coincides with Refugee Week, and today in particular is World Refugee Day. Celebrated from Sunday, 18 June, to Saturday, 24 June, Refugee Week is an annual event which seeks to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and to celebrate the positive contributions that the 800 000 Australians who were once refugees have made to our society over the past 70 years.

Promoting the theme ‘With courage let us all combine’, Refugee Week this year encourages Australians to strengthen our country’s welcome to refugees and to acknowledge the value that refugees bring to their new home. While we rarely hear of the valuable contributions that people from refugee backgrounds make to their new home, society is quick to judge all refugees as troublemakers when a distant descendent of a refugee, for example, commits a crime. Refugee Week aims to end this way of thinking by promoting a positive image of refugees.

The theme ‘With courage let us all combine’ derives from the second verse of the Australian national anthem. It celebrates the courage of refugees and of those who speak out against injustice and persecution. Refugees are brave. They face persecution in their home countries because of their race, nationality, faith or membership of a specific group, yet they are often faced with similar discrimination in the places where they seek refuge. Defenders of refugees, in turn, are equally as commendable as they tirelessly speak out against violations of human rights and assist people at their time of greatest need.

To date there are approximately 21.3 million refugees around the world. As a developed, prosperous and generous country, Australia could and should do more to bring in more refugees and help end this growing humanitarian crisis. In the spirit of Refugee Week — —

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Ms Patten) — Order! The member’s time has expired.

20 June 2017