Calls for Kiama to be a Refugee Welcome Zone

Kiama Councillor Kathy Rice believes Kiama would benefit from being a refugee welcome zone.

Kiama Councillor Kathy Rice believes Kiama would benefit from being a refugee welcome zone.

ESTABLISHING Kiama as a more refugee-friendly town would have long-term cultural and tourism benefits for the municipality,  councillors believe.

At last Tuesday night’s  meeting, Councillor Kathy Rice suggested that Kiama Council become a Refugee Welcome Zone, and that councillors receive further information regarding the initiative. 

Council will now investigate the matter, with a report expected to return to council in the near future.

A Refugee Welcome Zone is a Local Government Area which has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community.

The Refugee Welcome Zone initiative began in June 2002 as part of Refugee Week celebrations. 

More than 90 Local Government Areas have declared themselves Refugee Welcome Zones.

Cr Rice said the zone provided support and demystification of differences, and as a popular holiday town believed it appropriate for Kiama to be a comfortable place for all new Australians to visit. 

“While Kiama is not an area with the affordable housing that attracts refugee families, there are increasing numbers of refugee and migrant families living in nearby suburbs,’’ Cr Rice said.

‘‘The program recognises the contribution that refugees have made to Australia, and acknowledges the member council’s stance against discrimination.’’

Deputy Mayor Neil Reilly said Kiama was a welcome place for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to visit. 

‘‘You’ve only got to walk around the town on a Saturday or a Sunday and you’ll see such diversity,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it really adds a flavour to the place, and it adds to the friendliness.

‘‘If we make it known that we are a refugee friendly town, today’s refugees are tomorrow’s tourists… Because of cultural diversity, people aren’t necessarily coming here to surf or to play rugby, they come here just to soak in the natural beauty. 

‘‘Now as a benefit to Kiama, people are drawn to the beauty of the place, and the welcoming, friendly nature of it in parts of the year that aren’t necessarily high tourism. 

‘‘And we can use that as a base to help develop that sort of shoulder period of tourism to Kiama. 

‘‘The economy of the place will certainly benefit, but also the personality of Kiama will benefit.” 

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