Council in talks for refugee resettlement
PROPOSALS for settling Syrian refugees in New South Wales gained traction this week during a round-table meeting involving six regional councils including Coffs Harbour City Council.
The NSW Coordinator General for Refugee Resettlement, Professor Peter Shergold, met with representatives from Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga, Newcastle, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Armidale to discuss the integration of refugees from Syria and Iraq into regional communities.
Prof Shergold said the councils were chosen on the basis of past experiences at settling refugees or if they had expressed a willingness to invite refugees into their communities.
While the talks were preliminary, Prof Shergold said it was not yet clear which communities the Syrian and Iraqi refugees would be settled in - a decision that would be made by the Federal Government.
"The key is to ensure that the councils are full partners in planning for the new arrivals," Prof Shergold said.
"There was a lot put on the table for discussion - the provision of intensive English language centres, the challenge of obtaining driving licences, the recognition of overseas qualifications and bridging courses and access to housing, employment, education and training opportunities," he said.
The NSW Government has pledged to take a minimum of 4000 refugees from Syria and Iraq with the first due to arrive before the end of the year.
Prof Shergold said collaborating with regional councils was one of many ways the resettlement program could be enhanced.
"We're talking to educators, businesses, resettlement experts, NGOs and all levels of government to devise a program that best suits the needs of these particular refugees," he said.
"The refugees are coming to Australia to build new lives and leave the worst behind them (and) my hope is that regional NSW can play a key part in helping to achieve that."