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  • Writer's pictureJack Ward

Ararat welcomes first refugee family

Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's local weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.

The Rural Australians for Refugees Grampians/Gariwerd chapter has welcomed Ararat’s first refugee family to town with the help of Ararat’s Uniting Church.

It has been the group’s dream to assist refugees and to welcome a family into the Ararat community for some time, having donated money and goods to help refugees in the past.

PHOTO: Rural Australians for Refugees Grampians/Gariwerd President Leonie Foster and Ararat Uniting Church Council Chairman Frank Kitchen with Ararat’s first refugee family (Jack Ward/Ararat Advocate)

Grampians/Gariwerd President Leonie Foster said although the group is a big supporter of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, their aim was to do something locally.

“When we realised the former Uniting Church Manse was no longer in use, it seemed like a perfect opportunity,” she said.

The group has worked with the Ararat Uniting Church Council who are also very committed to the refugee cause.

Chairman Frank Kitchen said the church’s passion was ignited following human rights advocate, barrister, and author, Julian Burnside’s AO QC visit to Ararat in 2014.

“We had this former church Manse and we had some funds from the sale of the Elmhurst Church. Initially, we were trying to look for a house for the homeless but that didn't work out. We thought, let's do it up for a refugee family and give them a chance,” he said.

“Many in Ararat want to help refugees out and a country town is a great opportunity.”

Prior to the family’s arrival, many hours were spent on minor repairs – cleaning inside and out, painting and laying new floor coverings.

Sudanese refugee Mary Deng and six children, including her eldest daughter, Abouk Majuk, have been settling into Ararat and their new home for the past month.

Mr Kitchen has been working with their father to ensure the house is in order for the family to live comfortably.

“Hopefully in a week or two, we'll get to know them a little bit and offer more assistance if needed,” he said.

Ms Majuk said they have moved from Pakenham thanks to the help of the Australian Multicultural Education Services that assists migrants settle into their new lives in Australia.

“It means a new start. It's a quiet area which is a nice change to Pakenham. It’s also a lot safer for us,” she said.

She has started work at AME Systems this week, and the family’s younger children are being enrolled at Ararat 800 Primary School and Ararat College. Their mother is still seeking employment but is travelling to her cleaning job in Frankston in the meantime.

Mr Kitchen and Ms Foster hope that the family’s arrival is just the beginning of welcoming refugee families to Ararat.

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