Karen refugees become Australian citizens
Around 35 former AMES clients became Australian citizens at a moving and inspirational ceremony at Nhill, in western Victoria, last week.
The ‘new Australians’ are all former Karen refugees from Burma who were helped settle in Nhill to take up job opportunities with poultry producer Luv-a-Duck.
Around 180 Karen now live in Nhill after the settlement initiative began in 2010 in response to labour shortages at Luv-a-Duck.
The program is emerging as a model not only for refugee settlement but also for the revival of struggling rural towns.
Local community leaders say the arrival of the Karen has breathed new life into the town, bringing economic benefits and enriching its cultural life.
AMES General Manager Settlement and Asylum Seeker Programs Ramesh Kumar said the citizenship ceremony was a wonderful tribute to everyone who had worked hard to make the settlement of the Karen such as success.
“It was quite rewarding and in fact overwhelming for me, Melika and Nanthu to see the way Hindmarsh Shire has demonstrated leadership and illustrated inclusiveness in more ways than one. I want to also pay tribute particularly to the work of John and Marg Millington, who have been so welcoming of the Karen in Nhill.”
“I kept repeating this good news story several times from the time of my return,” said Ramesh.
Hindmarsh Shire Mayor Rob Gersch said that the cultural diversity the Karen had brought to Nhill was something to be celebrated.
“We are an inclusive and welcoming community with one of the highest rates of volunteering in Australia,” he said.
“The Karen community has made a tremendous contribution to Nhill’s economy, taking steps toward arresting our declining population, allowing key businesses to expand, and stimulating the local property market,” Councillor Gersch said.
“I have been fortunate enough to witness the joy the Karen community have brought to Nhill. By sharing their stories and celebration during the Karen New Year, we gain insight into the Karen traditions and customs.
“I consider Hindmarsh Shire lucky to have such a kind, caring and generous group of refugees call Hindmarsh home,” Councillor Gersch said.
For more information on this story, contact the AMES
Communications Unit on: 9938 4031