It’s been hanging for all to see on Mortimer Street for months, and the Uniting Church is hoping that it gets the message across – all refugees are welcome in Australia.
The big white banner, proudly declaring that ‘Refugees are welcome here’ is part of an initiative by the Uniting Church across the country to show support and raise awareness for an ongoing issue, and Mudgee’s support comes as part of that campaign.
Reverend Greg Smith, the Supply Minister at the Mudgee branch of the Uniting Church believes that it’s an important message to be getting out to the community, even if “we’re not over-run by refugees in Mudgee”.
“We wanted to make a public statement on where the congregation stands on the issue of refugees, and we want to raise community awareness on the issue and plight of the refugees,” he said.
“Because we see so many messages coming out that create fear and uncertainty on the issue of refugees, to put out a positive message gets people to think about the issue in a different way.”
The awareness of the issues of refugees is key for the Uniting Church and the community, Reverend Smith said.
“It’s important that the awareness be raised, and people in Mudgee can make a difference – they can speak up, they can speak to members of parliament and when we see hurtful and hateful stuff, just by raising awareness and speaking to each other, we can make a difference,” Reverend Smith said.
“Having a sign up in town says ‘you can feel safe here’, and most refugees just want that feeling of safety for themselves and their families. It’s why they go to such great lengths to come here.
“At the very least we’re saying to Mudgee: let’s be a safe place for people who have been traumatised around the world.”
The message is a particularly relevant one, as the Turnbull government has been ordered to pay $70 million compensation to refugees and asylum seekers detained by Australia at Manus Island.
The ruling from the Victorian court officially approved the settlement on Wednesday, and according to law firm Slater and Gordon, it is set to be the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian history.