LOCAL businesses are making their stance on refugee resettlement clear with ‘Refugees are Welcome Here’ signs popping up in shop windows across South Gippsland and Bass Coast.
Around 20 businesses from Cowes through to Fish Creek are displaying the signs, in a campaign organised by South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees (SGRAR).
Sold for $4 each, the signs aim to send a clear message to political decision-makers, while also raising funds for local refugee families and refugee support services such as the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project.
Meeniyan Store proprietor Felicity Jones has had her sign up for several months, saying she “had no reason not to” get on board with SGRAR’s campaign when contacted by the group, although she does have some concerns about the logistics of resettling refugees in Australia.
“If we can give refugees homes and get them into society, we should be accepting them, but if we can’t house and take care of them properly, I don’t know if we should be accepting them.
“But it comes down to, if someone came to me and said ‘Please help me,’ I wouldn’t say ‘No. Go away’. And that applies to any person, no matter what their nationality. Of course you’re going to help them.
“That’s the Australia I feel part of and it’s upsetting that the government’s not acting the way a lot of Australians would like to see them act,” she said.
Felicity said most customers have been accepting of the sign, but that it has drawn a couple of interesting responses, including an elderly war veteran who confronted Felicity, making a case against immigration with tears in his eyes, and a local woman walking past the shopfront who stopped in her tracks to proclaim “I love that sign!”.
Coordinator of the signs campaign Jessica Harrison says SGRAR has been very pleased with, but not surprised by, the community’s embrace of the campaign.
“I think the Australian community now realises that refugees have been punished enough and we need to give them a chance to get on with their lives,” she said.
Jessica said SGRAR would like to see more local businesses take up the opportunity not just to welcome refugees but to offer them employment.
She said refugees can bring many social and economic benefits to rural and regional communities, pointing to Nhill in western Victoria’s Wimmera, where refugees from Myanmar added more than $40 million to the local economy, as an example.
If you’d like to purchase a sign to display at your business or residence, contact Jessica on 0407 307 231 or enquire at your local community house.
Local businesses take a stand on refugees