2000-2005 A long and Winding Road…..passing on FLN Coordinator’s newsletter:
Anne Horrigan-Dixon writes:
In the last 5 weeks I have had time to think about what has happened to Australia in that time and think what it has meant for the Fitzroy Learning Network and our community.
This time 5 years ago most of us had not heard of Immigration Detention and if we had we knew nothing about it. However that changed in mid August when large groups were released, came to Melbourne and were housed at Atherton Garden Estate.
Our sign simply said: “Free English Classes” and that brought us into a whole new world. Thanks to Jafar Yawari who knocked on our door and asked if the Afghans could learn English here, we have developed deep and meaningful relationships with many Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians who risked their lives and came by boat.
We have made so many wonderful new friends, found soul mates and participated in a period which has changed our history forever. So many Australians have demonstrated what a great nation we really are by seeing through the rhetoric of the Federal Government and realizing how wonderful our refugees, TPVs and asylums seekers are by supporting them.
On Sunday morning I was asked to speak at 2 Uniting Church services as their congregation is organizing a fundraising concert for us next week. As I was driving to Beaumaris in the sunshine I was thinking how well I was and how I was getting over the tragedy and trauma of working so closely with our TPVs over the last 5 years.
I sat in the church with these lovely people and they sang a hymn which really summed up the journey all of us have been on since August 2000. “I was there when you needed me, a friend to listen to me, someone to heal me…. no matter what the colour of my skin, my name or my creed”. I thought how true this has been of our experience at Fitzroy Learning Network and I started to cry……so many fantastic people that started small in Fitzroy bringing in bedding, lilos and mattresses.
This grew into a statewide support for the Temporary Protection Visa holders, people in detention and asylum seekers. I remember the chaos of the first arrivals and the brilliant response of our staff, volunteers and Committee.
Richard Wynne our Member of Parliament came down immediately as he had been a social worker in his early career to advise us on what to do. It was totally overwhelming. The immediate response from local agencies, especially North Yarra Community Health, was great especially with some many released who were sick.
Look at the support from the letter writers, the early response from the people in Daylesford, Rural Australians for Refugees, people in churches, kids in schools, people you meet in butcher shops who help organise a national delegation to Canberra, ordinary Australians who want to stand up and be counted. So many young people wanting to volunteer and support refugees….. we are building great foundation for Australia in the future.
Last week when the last children were removed from detention was a day to celebrate the power of people and our democracy.
Mohammad Al Janabi came to see me yesterday, the biggest smile I have even seen as he will see his mother and family this weekend after about 14 years……happiness radiated from him. He was brave enough in the very early days to tell his story and it has eventually paid off.
Today another Iraqi man came in with a Permanent Protection visa so after 6 years he can see his wife and 8 children and they can be reunited in Australia. So we have lots of work to do welcoming the families of our TPVs.
Thank you to all of you who have supported our refugees and the work at Fitzroy Learning Network…..we can never thank you enough.