Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families (SCARF), The Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI), Illawarra Multicultural Service (IMS) and the Illawarra division of the Australian Red Cross Humanitarian Settlement Program (Red Cross HSP), come together to express our deep sympathy to the victims and families of the recent terror attack by a right-wing extremist in Christchurch. We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community and continue to respect cultural diversity here in the Illawarra and around the world during Harmony week.
IMS CEO Raquel Aldunate said:
“IMS sends its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those killed and to those injured in the attack. We also condemn the racist and divisive rhetoric expressed by certain politicians and media in Australia both before and after this attack. It serves no purpose other than to instil the fear and hatred which can lead to such attacks.”
SCARF CEO Pippa Rendel urges connection:
“When tragic events occur, it can feel hard to know what to do to support to each other. You may want to reach out to Muslim friends, neighbours and fellow community members who may be feeling distressed or unsafe. We encourage people to make these connections. If you have Muslim neighbours or friends, you may wish to check in with them at this time. A smile or friendly greeting to people you are less acquainted with and those you pass in the street can go a long way to foster a sense of belonging and reinforce community ties. Community gatherings are also a wonderful way for us all to recognise our shared humanity and the strength of the connections between us.”
The Illawarra’s multicultural and settlement support organisations have played an important role in effectively settling refugees and those seeking humanitarian assistance regardless of faith or cultural background. They will continue to work closely with the Muslim community as well as those from other backgrounds. These services will continue to work in collaboration with each other and the wider community to promote the benefits of diversity and support people of all faiths and backgrounds as they build lives in the Illawarra and add to the rich fabric of our community.
Australian Red Cross, HPS Regional Manager Pia Angelucci said:
“The thoughts and hearts of Red Cross are with Muslim communities in New Zealand and everywhere else. People killed as they gathered to pray is a horrifying act against all humanity. To all those affected and all those fearing for their safety and questioning the world around them, we stand with you, always.”
We applaud the response of New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and her inclusive stance against divisive politics. There is no place for anti-immigration, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim beliefs in Australia. This is the time to show support for our diverse communities through programs such as Harmony Week.
MCCI CEO Chris Lacy said:
“Harmony Week commenced on Sunday 17 March and now, as much as ever, it is important for the whole community to come together to show our support for inclusion, diversity and respect and, by doing so, make a statement that we unequivocally reject the extremist views that fuel hate and division in our community.
“I am confident that the people of the Illawarra will come together in this time of need to support our
Muslim community and stand up for the values of inclusion and respect that make
us who we are
as Australians today. We in the Illawarra have a strong history of welcoming and supporting refugees
and migrants from all over the world and, as community, we will continue to do so.”
Wollongong has been recognised as a Refugee Welcome Zone since 2005. During that time the region has accepted thousands of refugees including women, children and families from 14 countries of origin including Burma, African nations, middle east and south America and from various cultural backgrounds, languages and faiths.
The following support services are available to those in the community who might be struggling:
- STARTTS provides culturally relevant psychological treatment and support for refugee survivors: www.startts.org.au
- Lifeline provides crisis support: 13 11 14, www.lifelinesouthcoast.org.au , and
- Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone achieve their best possible mental health: www.beyondblue.org.au