Working for Justice

Welcoming Refugees in Warnambool

By Rev. Malcolm Frazer, Warrnambool Uniting Church

Fadak Alfayadh is telling a good news refugee story across regional Australia. Her aim is to counter the negative tones of many politicians and media in recent years and to encourage a more welcoming Australia to refugees.

Speaking at Warrnambool Uniting Church at an event for the Warrnambool Amnesty International, Fadak shared how as a 10-year-old she fled post war Iraq with her mother and sisters to join their father who years earlier had escaped to Australia by boat.

Not knowing a word of English, Fadak speaks positively of the welcome she and her family received in multicultural Dandenong. 

She recalls comments at school lunchtimes “what a weird lunch you have” as her schoolmates reacted to the rice balls that Mum had put in her lunch box.

“Why didn’t Mum pack me sandwiches like everyone else?”

But then “can I try”, and with first bite, “this is beautiful”.

So Fadak shares her first time of feeling welcome in Australia and of how lucky she felt at having been given this second chance at life.

Now at 26 years of age Fadak is wanting to show how that positive welcome helped her become a community lawyer working in prevention of family violence and gender equality.

Her message to the Churches and to regional Australia was,

  • do what you can to help build welcoming communities for refugees. Meet and actively listen to the stories of refugees.
  • Provide opportunities for conversational English.
  • As well as giving practical support with finding of work, finding schools and helping to pay the bills

Warrnambool City Council recently signed up to an international program, along with other Victorian councils, called “Welcoming Cities”.

Primarily this is a program that welcomes new immigrants, but also refugees.  Warrnambool is also soon to open a “conversational cafe” where new Australians can practice their English with locals invited to share in the conversations.

Many practical initiatives like this are helping build the welcome that Fadak is so committed to.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:2 New International Version (NIV)

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