How many times have you been out the front of a cafe or bar, and seen a little sticker stating pleasantly “refugees welcome”? or the comforting familiarity of the rainbow sticker showing that all Australians are also welcome? These are small details that most would not even notice, but for some people it makes a massive difference. It shows them that they are welcome, they are accepted and that they will be greeted with a smiling face. This can make a huge difference in someone’s quality of life, especially if they are in a new city, having fled unspeakable horrors to be there.
This is why it is so great that in Australia, you have the option to push for your local council or shire to become a Refugee Welcome Zone, meaning that there are designated areas that have made a binding commitment to welcoming refugees into the area, and assisting them in any way that they can. You might be surprised to find that there are more RWZ’s (Refugee Welcome Zones) near you than you think! For example, in Sydney, both the Marrickville Council and Bankstown City Council are committed RWZs.
You may be wondering exactly a Refugee Welcome Zone does.. and the options are limitless! RWZ’s can arrange to develop or review local government policies on refugees and asylum seekers, offer funding to community-based initiatives to help support the settlement of refugees, organise street fairs and festivals during Refugee Week and Harmony week.. and many many more fantastic initiatives.
I would honestly urge anyone interested to get in contact with their local council about becoming a RWZ. The process is simple, and basically just starts with writing a letter to your local council- you can find some more guidelines and information on this here.
The RWZ website also includes a 57 page guide to the effectiveness of RWZ’s, and case studies in how they have helped settle families in the community and help them feel welcome. If you’re interested in town and community planning, or just a regular Leslie Knope, it’s an excellent read.
Overall, something so simple as a refugee welcome zone could be the difference between someone having a good day or a bad day, the difference between being an outcast or included, and the difference between a good local council and a great one.