Parramatta community welcomes refugees

The aim of the Welcome Dinners is to create and hold spaces for experiences involving personal encounters, leading to ongoing transformations, both personal and communal. Photo: JRS

The aim of the Welcome Dinners is to create and hold spaces for experiences involving personal encounters, leading to ongoing transformations, both personal and communal. Photo: JRS

“JRS partnered with the Welcome Dinner Project, the Red Cross, Amnesty International, the Community Migrant Resource Centre and the City of Parramatta to organise an event to bring together people who are newly arrived to Australia and those who have been living here for years.”

On a warm September evening, in the heart of Parramatta, over 150 people from all over the world gathered to share a meal.

JRS partnered with the Welcome Dinner Project, the Red Cross, Amnesty International, the Community Migrant Resource Centre and the City of Parramatta to organise an event to bring together people who are newly arrived to Australia and those who have been living here for years.

At one table sat people from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Fiji, Iran, Malaysia and Australia. Men, women, and children. Some had lived in Australia all their lives, some had come as students, some had come as recognised refugees through the Humanitarian Visa Program, and some had come to Australia by boat, fleeing persecution and seeking safety for themselves and their families.

At least for one night, one’s mode of arrival didn’t matter. It was a night to say, “you are welcome here.” It was a night for shared conversation, shared food, and shared humanity. People meeting people over a bright purple rasavilli kilangu kool from Sri Lanka and Aussie chocolate crackle.

For Azadeh from Iran, it was chance to do something she loves to do – cook. “When I can share my food and my culture with other people, I feel so happy,” said Azadeh.

And for Joseph from Burundi, it was a chance to feel a sense of belonging in a new place. “I have met so many wonderful people, I feel so happy to be here tonight.”

As the evening drew to a close, new friends exchanged contact details and everyone wrote down words to sum up how they were feeling – “Happy.” “Hopeful.” “Welcome.”

By Maeve Brown, Manager Arrupe Project

To read more about the Welcome Dinner Project go to www.joiningthedots.org

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