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A Refugee Welcome Zone is a Local Government Area which has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community. The Refugee Welcome Zone initiative began in June 2002 as part of Refugee Week celebrations.

This public commitment is also an acknowledgment of the tremendous contributions refugees have made to Australian society in the fields of medicine, science, engineering, sport, education and the arts. By making this Declaration, it is hoped that local government will be encouraged in their continuing efforts to support the men, women and children who make the difficult journey to Australia to seek our protection.

The contribution of Australia’s local councils to welcoming humanitarian arrivals has been documented in a research paper which sets out the benefits of becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone and highlights examples of best-practice from some of the local councils.

The importance of local government in building strong, socially cohesive communities has led the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government to develop an on-line interactive resource for Councils, Building Social Cohesion in our Communities, which is aimed at assisting Councils understand and engage with their communities.

RCOA distributes a regular newsletter featuring positive stories and initiatives from Refugee Welcome Zone Councils. We welcome contributions to this newsletter to share with councils and subscribers all around Australia. If you have a positive story to share please contact laura.stacey@refugeecouncil.org.au. To subscribe to the RWZ newsletter please click here. 

Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone

The majority of Refugee Welcome Zones have been declared after an initial proposal by a community or church-based organisation that is subsequently supported by an approach from RCOA. If you would like your local Council or Shire to become a Refugee Welcome Zone, here are some suggested steps:

  1. Write a letter of proposal to your Mayor and Councillors. It is important to highlight the level of community support for refugees and asylum seekers, the benefits of becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone and opportunities to work with local groups and organisations and support groups. You should also enclose a copy of the Refugee Welcome Zone information for councils.
  2. If you work for a local organisation or are part of a community support group which provides assistance to refugees invite your Mayor and Councillors to visit you. This provides a great opportunity to showcase the work you do.
  3. Request an opportunity to present the proposal at a Council meeting.
  4. Contact RCOA to let us know about your proposal. We can provide further information and advice and approach your Council to support the proposal.

The process for becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone is very straightforward and simply involves the Council signing the Refugee Welcome Zone Declaration. To mark the occasion of becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone, many Councils and Shires choose to hold public signing ceremonies to highlight the initiative and acknowledge the work of local groups and individuals that support refugees and asylum seekers. To request a representative from the Refugee Council of Australia to attend a ceremony, get in touch with our head office on (02) 9211 9333.

Benefits of becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone

Local Government has historically played an important role in assisting refugee settlement and promoting community harmony. Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone is a way to continue this proud tradition of supporting the settlement of refugees. It can motivate Local Government and local organisations and support groups to work together more effectively so as to improve settlement outcomes for refugees.

Signing the Declaration can also promote harmony, social cohesion and respect for human rights in your local community. It is a great way to demonstrate support for refugees and take a strong stand against racism and discrimination. It can help to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees, foster a culture of mutual respect and promote an appreciation of cultural diversity.

Current Refugee Welcome Zones

There are currently 149 Refugee Welcome Zones in Australia.

ACT: The ACT government has declared the Australian Capital Territory a Refugee Welcome Zone.

New South Wales:  Albury City Council, Armidale Dumaresq Council, Ballina Shire Council, Bathurst Regional Council, Bega Valley Shire Council, Blacktown City Council, Blue Mountains City Council, Burwood Council, Byron Shire Council, Campbelltown City Council, City of Canterbury-Bankstown, Coffs Harbour City Council, Cowra Council, Cumberland Council, Dubbo City Council, Eurobodalla Shire Council, Fairfield City Council, Georges River Council, Glen Innes Severn Council, Gosford City Council, Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Griffith City Council, Gunnedah Shire Council, Gwydir Shire Council, Hawkesbury City Council, Hornsby Shire Council, Inner West Council, Kiama Municipal Council, Ku-ring-gai Council, City of Lake Macquarie, Leeton Shire Council, Lismore City Council, Liverpool City Council, Moree Plains Shire Council, Mosman Council, Newcastle City Council, North Sydney Council, Northern Beaches Council, Parkes Shire Council, City of Parramatta, Penrith City Council, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, Queanbeyan-Pelarang Regional Council, Randwick City Council, Rockdale City Council, City of Ryde, Shellharbour City Council, Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Sutherland Shire Council, City of Sydney, Tweed Shire Council, Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Wagga Wagga City Council, Waverley Council, Willoughby City Council, Wingecarribee Shire Council, Wollongong City Council, Yass Valley Council.

Northern Territory: City of Palmerston

Victoria: Ararat Rural City Council, City of Ballarat, Banyule City Council, Bass Coast Shire Council, Brimbank City Council, Shire of Campaspe, Cardinia Shire Council, City of Casey, City of Darebin, City of Greater Bendigo, Colac Otway Shire, Gannawarra Shire Council, City of Greater Dandenong, City of Greater Geelong, Hepburn Shire Council, Hindmarsh Shire Council, Hobsons Bay City Council, Horsham Rural City Council, Hume City Council, Indigo Shire Council, Knox City Council, La Trobe City Council, Manningham City Council, Mansfield Shire Council, Maribyrnong City Council, Maroondah City Council, City of Melbourne, Mildura Rural City Council, Moira Shire Council, City of Monash, City of Moonee Valley, Moreland City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire, Mount Alexander Shire Council, Northern Grampians Shire, Nillumbik Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council, City of Port Phillip, Borough of Queenscliffe, Greater Shepparton City Council, Strathbogie Shire Council, Surf Coast Shire, Swan Hill Rural City Council, City of Whittlesea, City of Wodonga, Wyndham City, City of Yarra, Yarra Ranges Council.

South Australia:  Adelaide City Council, Adelaide Hills Council, Campbelltown City Council, Town of Gawler, City of Marion, City of Mitcham, City of Mount Gambier, Rural City of Murray Bridge, City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters, City of Onkaparinga, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, City of Prospect, City of Salisbury, City of Victor Harbor, City of West Torrens.

Queensland: Brisbane City Council, Diamantina Shire Council, Flinders Shire Council, City of Ipswich, Logan City Council, Toowoomba Regional Council, Townsville City Council.

Tasmania: Break O’Day Council, Burnie City Council, Clarence City Council, Derwent Valley Council, Hobart City Council, Huon Valley Council, Kingborough Council, La Trobe Council, Launceston City Council, Northern Midlands Council, West Tamar Council.

Western Australia: City of Bayswater, City of Fremantle, Shire of Katanning, Shire of Manjimup, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, City of Subiaco, Town of Victoria Park, City of Vincent.

Further information

For further information on Refugee Welcome Zones, please contact us or download the information sheets below:

  • Refugee Welcome Zones information sheet for Councils.
  • Refugee Welcome Zones information sheet for Community members.

Last updated November 2015

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