“There is no doubt that refugees and asylum seekers are courageous…we too need to be courageous.”
The theme for Australia’s Refugee Week 2016 was “With courage let us all combine”, words taken from the second verse of the national anthem, Advance Australia Fair.
There is no doubt that refugees and asylum seekers are courageous. The mothers who cling tightly to their children as they cross seas and oceans seeking safety in any direction are courageous. The young men who sell everything they own to cross borders seeking protection from threats, persecution, and almost certain death are courageous. The children who endure years in detention are courageous.
We who are advocates, caseworkers, volunteers, teachers, community members, and even the politicians – we, too, need to be courageous. Anne and Rob Porter, long-time JRS volunteers, are courageous (although they are far too humble to admit this). At the 2016 NSW Refugee Week Launch, they were honoured with the STARTTS Humanitarian Award for their service to refugees. They give their time and effort year after year, show endless compassion, and are the embodiment of accompaniment.
“What we do for JRS is a rather small attempt to mitigate the politicians’ attempts to demonise and demoralise people who have fled to Australia and have the right to claim asylum. It is not part of the values with which we grew up or associate with being Australian,” says Anne.
We are grateful that Anne and Rob, and the more than 60 other JRS volunteers who have been trained in the past year-and-a-half, have had the courage to take a stand, to recognise our shared humanity, and to reach out and welcome asylum seekers.
By Maeve Brown, Manager of JRS Australia’s Arrupe Project