Led by Administrator Amanda Chadwick, the signing of the Refugee Welcome Zone declaration officially recognised the local government area as one that makes a real and tangible commitment to welcoming refugees into the community.
“As a hub for refugee and migrant resettlement, we have an opportunity in Parramatta to experience cultural offerings from around the world,” said Ms Chadwick. “So many refugees have gone on to make an incredible contribution to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the city.”
The guests at the event were able to see some of these amazing offerings first hand with incredible musical performances from talented refugees. Ngoc-Tuan Hoang who came as a refugee from Vietnam wowed the crowd with his skill as a classical guitarist while accompanied by Yaw Derkyi, a former refugee from Ghana. Yaw Derkyi had a larger than life personality and taught the crowd a call and response song, which had everyone clapping and singing along.
Keynote speaker, Usman Iftikhar was also another example of how refugees enrich the city. As a co-founder of Catalysr, Usman’s mission is to provide an ecosystem to assist fellow refugees and migrants, in developing their ideas for start-ups into realities.
“I just want to thank the council for signing this amazing declaration,” said Usman. “I was looking at the four key principals the council has to demonstrate to sign the initiative and they are; helping refugees, upholding human rights, demonstrating compassion and enhancing cultural and religious diversity. I think these are all such key things that the world needs right now.”
After the formalities everyone was asked to sign a colourful welcome mural, created by artists from the Welcome Studio. The mural will be set up in Parramatta so constituents can write messages of welcome to refugees and asylum seekers in the community.
“The City of Parramatta has a long history of welcoming many thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum,” said Maeve Brown, Manager of JRS’s Arrupe Project. “Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone recognises the council’s ongoing commitment and support for refugees.”
Together with the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta and the Refugee Council of Australia, JRS approached the City of Parramatta to officially classify the region as a Refugee Welcome Zone. We are thrilled with the result and look forward to working together into the future.
“As I stopped to paint a greeting on the Welcome Wall, there was a school boy who also stopped to paint his message.” Maeve said. “The people from the Welcome Studio thanked him for his time and he said, ‘No, thank you. I am a refugee too.’ It was a poignant moment that showed how much of a difference it makes for people to know Parramatta is a place that welcomes and celebrates refugees.”