TAMWORTH is making a bid to help resettle some of the 12,000 Syrian refugees that are on their way to Australia.
The group behind the Tamworth Syrian Refugee Project is finalising a submission to be presented to federal MP Barnaby Joyce, and has already registered its interest with Professor Peter Shergold, the man co-ordinating the resettlement of the refugees that come to NSW.
Spokesman Brian Lincoln said about 40 residents were involved in the project, many of them members of local churches and others representing service agencies in the city, such as TAFE New England and Northern Settlement Services.
He said the group was aiming to have a maximum of 40 refugees directed to Tamworth, where he said adequate services and facilities were available.
“We recognise these people may need assistance with housing, English classes, work, transport, medical support and counselling,” Mr Lincoln said.
“Those things are all here in Tamworth, and these people would be great new neighbours for us.
“Our group’s primary aim would be in co-ordinating and engaging these services, while also providing warm, personal support.”
Mr Lincoln said Tamworth already had experience in rehoming a large refugee group, referring to the group of displaced Lao people who were successfully resettled in the city in the late 1970s.
The need of the Syrian refugees for a new start was the same now as it had been for the Lao group all those years ago.
“We feel as though we have the resources and the willingness to (help),” Mr Lincoln said.
“Tamworth has far more wealth than these people, who have lost so much, and we feel like we should be sharing a bit of what we have locally.”
Mr Joyce agreed, telling The Leader he would be pushing the group’s cause, believing regional areas were ideal places for newcomers to settle.
“I would hope places like Tamworth are chosen (as resettlement areas). If what we want is for people to assimilate, I think the best place for that is in country areas,” he said.
“You can’t hide in a country town ... you’re forced to become part of that community.”
Mr Joyce said once he had the group’s submission, he would be making its case to Minister for Social Services Christian Porter.
“I don’t think it will stretch (Tamworth’s) resources – it’s not a large number of people we’re talking about ... but if it’s necessary, I’ll assist in bringing more resources where they’re needed,” he said.