MAROONDAH Council wants the message to be loud and clear: refugees are welcome.
At its meeting last week, the council endorsed becoming a refugee welcome zone—- an initiative of the Refugee Council of Australia established in 2002 when 15 council areas in Victoria, News South Wales and South Australia were declared 'refugee welcome zones'.
There are now more than 70 councils which have declared themselves welcome zones, including 23 in Victoria.
The 2011 census figures show Burma as being in the top five countries of birth among Maroondah residents, many of whom were in refugee camps before resettling here.
In declaring Maroondah a refugee welcome zone, the council said it would be proactive in promoting tolerance, diversity and compassion in the municipality.
Central Ringwood Community Centre manager Catherine Collopy said she was pleased with the decision. "I am so impressed the council has made the decision to go this way. I know the willingness is there."
She said the centre worked hard to ensure it was a safe and welcoming place for migrant groups to learn English or take part in a wide range of activities.
"We need to acknowledge formally this is what we want to do as a community. The adjustments these people have made to live in this country are a lot, including what they have had to achieve just to get here."
Ms Collopy said more could be done to spread information to migrants about what services and resources were available.
"We have to be creative in the way we communicate. Traditional methods such as newspapers and flyers don't work — we need to think more creatively about how we get the word out to these migrant communities."
The centre is looking for volunteers from migrant groups to work in language aid or childcare roles.
Details: 9870 2602.
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