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Shire of Plantagenet

Shire of plantagenetThe Shire of Plantagenet is a regional local government located 350 km southeast of Perth and consists of five key townsites, including Mount Barker, Kendenup, Porongurup, Rocky Gully and Narrikup. Covering a total area of 4,792km2, the Shire has a population of 5,168; of which approximately 4.5% identifies as the Mount Barker Hazara community. Like other culturally and linguistically diverse populations that reside in Plantagenet they make a significant positive contribution to our community both socially and economically.

Refugee Welcome Zone

In October 2021, the Mount Barker Hazara Community requested the Shire of Plantagenet to become a Refugee Welcome Zone. This was seen as a way to continue the Shire’s support of the settlement of refugees and to demonstrate our commitment to deter racism and discrimination. It also creates an opportunity to foster a culture of mutual respect and promote an appreciation of cultural diversity. The Shire of Plantagenet saw immense value in responding to this request and in November 2021 endorsed the declaration to become a Refugee Welcome Zone. Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone supports the possible settlement and integration of Afghan evacuees who have been displaced and persecuted as a result of the political instability in Afghanistan. As one of only three other local governments in WA to undergo this commitment, the Shire proudly acted to enhance inclusion and participation in the civic life of the Shire.

Proposer for Safe Haven Enterprise Visa

On 23 November 2021, building on the Refugee Welcome Zone endorsement, the Shire became a ‘Proposer’ for the identified Hazara Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders within our community, who had family members wishing to apply for Humanitarian Visas to Australia. The Shire was proud to be the first local government to adopt this status and delighted that this movement created a significant amount of interest. Hopefully, this will have a considerable flow-on effect, not only for the local Hazara community, their families and their plight, but for other declared Refugee Welcome Zones in Australia.

Getting Involved

The Shire plays a conduit role in building participation in civic life for all community members. In recent years, the momentum for Hazara involvement and inclusion in civic life has steadily increased. The Mount Barker TAFE offered an English Class designed specifically for Hazara Women. This culturally sensitive course offered seasonal programs to enable the women to also hold meaningful agricultural employment. The Shire has a long history of welcoming and including Hazara members as valued members of our Shire’s employment base in agricultural activities and the social connections that form within this industry.

Cultural Activities like Eid celebrations after Ramadan are also supported in the Mount Barker community with inclusive shared meals and a long table lunch which included members of the Shire of Plantagenet helping build relations with the Hazara community. To support youth involvement and educational success, the Community Resource Centre has offered a Hazara Homework Club to provide support and networks, helping to build youth involvement in the community.

A shining light for inclusion and participation in the Shire is the Hazara Martial Arts School which was established in 2014 by Hassan Haidary. Hassan had a singular vision for rebuilding his life when he fled Afghanistan and settled in Mount Barker. This community organisation attracts both Mount Barker locals and newly-arrived migrants, providing an important social hub for the communities to get to know each other.

In 2022, the relationship between the Shire of Plantagenet and the Hazara community of Mount Barker has continued to grow, with Council assisting with grant funding, pursuing suitable land/premises, and potential acquisition so that a Hazara Community Centre can be built to welcome new refugees and to maintain connections to language and culture. This exciting initiative aims to see all peoples engaged and welcomed in civic life with a destination that recognises the value and contribution of culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities in the Shire.

The Shire has submitted a grant application to the Better Beginnings program for funding to run a project called ‘Reading for Generations’. Reading for Generations is about helping mums read to their children, helping develop those early communication and literacy skills. The aim is to create a series of storybooks based on a Hazara story, created by the local Hazara community. The Shire will work with some storybook illustrators and local children to illustrate the stories. The stories will be printed in English, with a Hazaragi translation alongside. This will build mothers’ confidence in reading to their children, help their own English literacy and create fun around story times. This will help to broaden the interest in the stories amongst the greater community generating more interest and understanding with the Hazara families.

The Mount Barker Public Library has also supported a local ‘learn to speak English’ group that meets weekly. They became too large to meet at the library so now meet in the Community Resource Centre. This is run through volunteers that travel up from Albany. The library hosts a tutor who works with Hazara students and some young adults at the library. They meet a number of times a week and use the library facilities for their tutoring sessions.

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