Mayoral candidates have their say on refugee issues in the Shire

Six of the seven groups running for council in the December 4 local elections have had their say on issues facing refugees in the Eurobodalla Shire.

Eurobodalla Refugee Action Collective sent a series of questions to the council groups and received responses from every group except for A Better Council featuring Mayoral candidates Tubby Harrison and Gary Smith.

The questions were as follows:

  1. Were you aware that the Eurobodalla is already a Refugee Welcome Zone? What does our Shire being a welcome zone mean to you?
  2. What is your view on indefinite detention?
  3. What is your view on offshore processing?
  4. What is your view on multicultural diversity in the community?
  5. Would you support a part-time multicultural officer on Eurobodalla Council?

Here's the responses (some in full, some edited for length) RAC Eurobodalla received.

Alison Worthington (Greens)

We are proud to follow in the footsteps of former Greens Councillor Gabi Harding who successfully brought the 'Eurobodalla Refugee Welcome Zone' motion to our shire council in October 2016. This was a show of support and advocacy from the community for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum who might come to make a home in the Eurobodalla. It also raised the notion of ongoing education on refugee issues for Eurobodalla residents, as well as the benefits that a multicultural society brings to our region.

We want to live in a community that welcomes refugees and that will mean having sufficient resources to do that. Council has a big role to play. Your Green councillors will call for the establishment of a Neighbourhood Centre and include staff dedicated to multicultural services to support people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

We also recognise a truly successful multicultural society cannot be achieved without justice and self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Regarding the Australian government's cruel regime of indefinite detention and offshore processing please refer to the Australian Greens 'Compassion for Refugees' policy.

David Grace (Labor)

We have read the report proposing the Refugee Welcome Zone in October 2015 and we support the principles behind this initiative. We also note there is no mention of this declaration in the most recent Council Community Strategic Plan or in the Delivery Program and Operational Plan 2017-2022. As the Council has declared itself to be a "Refugee Welcome Zone" this needs to be translated into action.

The Eurobodalla Labor team understand this declaration to mean that we work with those who have been refugees, to build a community that is welcoming to them. Part of this process would be also to build a positive view of refugees in our wider community, perhaps through events and publicity organised by the council, in consultation with the multicultural community.

We do not support indefinite detention for asylum seekers. However we support a brief period where the claims of asylum seekers are investigated and health checks are carried out.

We do not support offshore processing.

Eurobodalla Labour strongly supports multicultural diversity. This diversity enables our community to become strong and vibrant with each culture contributing to the whole.

Eurobodalla Labor supports the appointment of a multicultural officer. Our non-European community is very small and segmented amongst many cultural groups. We need a skilled community worker who can provide advice and support to the council and to individuals in the community.

Anthony Mayne/Karyn Starmer (The Mayne Team)

As deputy mayor at the time, I formally welcomed to the Eurobodalla, the Refugee Welcome Zone scroll which was touring the country in 2017. The terrific event at the Moruya Rotunda was also attended by Councillor James and Councillor Pat.

The MAYNE Team would welcome refugees and asylum seekers to the Shire (we understand that there are none at present). We are committed to both the recognition and protection of human rights: Australia's track record in this regard is not good. Compassion is a critical value of any society and diversity is the platform that society must build upon to thrive. With diversity must come tolerance. There is a section of the community that fears differences between people and their beliefs. If the Mayne Team can do anything to foster tolerance then we would do that.

Indefinite detention is a cruel policy that needs to be ended.

Offshore processing is outsourcing our responsibilities.

In principle we support a part-time multicultural officer but we need to be practicable. There would be a cost associated with that and given the probable hole in the Council's finances it would be an expenditure that would need to compete with other needs.

Mat Hatcher (Advance Eurobodalla)

I was aware of the Welcome Zone and I love knowing we offer a safe haven for people wanting to improve their lives.

I am completely against indefinite detention. While I understand needing to secure our borders and following correct protocol, we should always strive to help people less fortunate and welcome those fleeing terrible situations.

I am against offshore processing and clearly the cost it puts on the country to continue. There are better ways. While local councils don't play a role in these decisions please know my "moral compass" is against it.

Absolutely believe multicultural diversity builds better and stronger communities.

Yes I would support a part-time multicultural officer and have reached out to Jan Frikken about a possible Neighbourhood Centre.

Rob Pollock

Thanks for your questions. I believe most are well outside the purview of local govt. However I value multiculturalism and the enormous contribution migrants have made and continue to make to Australia its Culture and economic development.

James Thomson

I'm not answering questionnaires but am happy to say I am in full sympathy with your cause. I feel it is a Federal issue but if re-elected would be happy to discuss what lobbying we could do. I guess I feel that if you are not indigenous then we all came from somewhere else often under challenging conditions and everyone should be treated with respect and compassion.

This story Council candidates have their say on refugee issues in the Shire first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.