In 2020, Australians are being asked to “make a resolution that counts”. Thousands will take action to welcome refugees and people seeking asylum, as part of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)’s “Year of Welcome” initiative. People who commit to the Year of Welcome will receive a simple action each month, which will empower them to stand in solidarity with people who have sought asylum in Australia or further afield.
As the official charity partner of tonight’s Sydney New Year’s Eve celebrations, a team of RCOA staff and volunteers are at the events, signing people up to the Year of Welcome. Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney and an official Ambassador for the campaign, said that she was delighted to take part: “What I love most about Sydney New Year’s Eve is that it enables us to come together to celebrate the best of our community, which is multicultural, harmonious, safe and inclusive. I’m proud that we can continue that celebration by championing 2020 as the Year of Welcome, which is a great way to empower people to make meaningful change at the grassroots level. I encourage everyone to make a resolution that counts this New Year, by signing up to the Year of Welcome.”
Paul Power, RCOA CEO, said that the initiative gives people a way to change the message Australia sends to people who seek safety, in spite of the hostile political context.
“We can’t simply wait for our elected representatives to change the cruel policies affecting refugees and people seeking asylum. All of us need to work together to make Australia a more welcoming country.
“People who are forced to flee their homes and seek safety are some of the most resilient, courageous people you could meet. Our country is enriched by having them in our communities. By making this commitment at the turn of the decade, we can let them know that we want them here and will support them to come and to build their new lives alongside ours.
“This year we’re asking Australians to make a resolution that counts. To help make Australia a more welcoming country.”
The first action will be released in January and will crowdsource a welcome video, to be shown to people who arrive in Australia. Participants will submit messages, which will be collated into a short, impactful video that lets people know they are supported by the Australian community, when they most need to hear it.
The monthly emails will also feature a case study telling the story of someone with lived experience of seeking asylum. In January, people will read about Rnita Dacho, who fled her home of Syria with her family in fear for their lives after taking part in the anti-Assad revolution. As a teacher, Rnita had risked her life every day for two years, travelling across ISIS-held territory to show up for her pupils, until she and her family were finally were forced to leave for their own safety. They happened to arrive in Australia during Refugee Week, the annual national celebration of refugee communities. Rnita says that the reception they received was extremely poignant for her and her family.
“When I arrived in Bankstown I was welcomed with open arms. I’m forever grateful for the love the Australian people have shown me,” she said. “It’s so important that we continue to support people through their journeys, arrival and settlement, so that they too can start their new lives on the right foot.”
The Year of Welcome is a national initiative, and the monthly actions are designed so that people can take them from anywhere in Australia. To join the Year of Welcome, sign up at www.yearofwelcome.org .
Media enquiries: Laura Stacey 0488 035 535. Rnita Dacho may be available for interview upon request.