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Refugees and asylum seekers: we all have a contribution to make

Behind all the public commentary, behind the stories we read and the images we see, people seeking asylum and refuge are fellow human beings seeking a safe future. Our experience shows that when they arrive, refugees want - and do - make a positive contribution to their new home.

Friday June 24, 2016

Refugees and asylum seekers - we all have a contribution to make
Refugees and people seeking asylum are making a difference in communities across Australia.

As fellow Australians, we can listen to their stories, and remind ourselves that our common humanity is not ruled by what separates us but by what unites us. This Refugee Week we urge you to consider what you can to do welcome refugees and asylum seekers into your communities.

Australians are compassionate people - as a humanitarian organisation Red Cross see this every day through the hundreds of thousands who volunteer their time, make a donation or give blood. In a country where one in five speaks a language other than English at home and almost half of us were either born overseas, or is the child of someone born overseas, migration is core to our identity. Refugee stories of courage and resilience are close to our hearts.

This Refugee Week (19-25 June) we have the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the big contribution made by refugees to our local, national, and global communities.

This contribution is evident in Australia, a multicultural nation that has a proud history of welcoming and providing protection to refugees. We know that refugees have enriched our social, cultural and economic life.

Our research tells us that most Australians are personally willing to lend a hand to a refugee or asylum seeker. Most Australians would be happy to help a refugee to learn English; aid someone to find a job or provide support navigating what we consider the everyday - such as how to catch public transport or open a bank account.

This week we're asking Australians to consider how they might lend a hand to some of the most vulnerable in our communities. We can all play a role. We see this need in our work with newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers. Life has often been harrowing and tough. But it can only get better.

Every day, everywhere across the world, Red Cross works to support the most vulnerable people in the most disadvantaged circumstances. We do not discriminate. We are there for people in need, no matter who they are, no matter where they live and no matter where they are from. We believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Our work with refugees and people seeking asylum also shows us that these people also bring skills and knowledge, great resilience and hope.

By providing people with opportunities to share their experience, to get involved in community life they can, and do, thrive.

Every day we hear heart-warming and compelling stories about the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers are making in their communities. It makes sense that these are stories of people striving to give something back to the country that has given them safety and hope for the future.

We must recognise and respect the enormous contribution made by former refugees to the rich tapestry of Australian society.

Welcoming refugees and offering people a future is not only about what Australia stands to gain from so many remarkable contributions. It is also about providing protection to people who have been through immeasurable trauma, about providing a safe and secure future. Most of all it is about hope.

We all have a role in making a difference in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers here in Australia. What can you do?  

Vicki Mau, is the National Manager, Migration Support Programs, Australian Red Cross.