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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 October 2015
NEWS 6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 OCTOBER 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Syrians head to Victoria Multicultural Commissioner Helen Kapalos calls for new approach to integration MICHAEL SWEET The first of at least 4,000 of the 12,000 Syrian refugees given asylum status by the Australian government are expected to arrive in Victoria before Christmas. Most are reportedly likely to be settled in Melbourne's northern suburbs, with regional Victorian towns also a possible destination. Victoria's Multicultural Commissioner Helen Kapalos chaired a meeting of key agencies this week to prepare for the influx that will see the state's Syrian-born population triple. Ms Kapalos told Neos Kosmos that Victoria had a worldclass reputation for resettling refugees, but that lessons could be learned to improve resettlement arrangements. "We want to make sure that the displacement that commonly occurs around reset- tlement isn't there. It's about every agency being prepared and new stakeholders stepping up," said the commissioner. As chair of Victoria's Syrian and Iraqi Refugee Intake Planning Committee, which met at AMES Australia on Tuesday, Ms Kapalos met with senior planners from across the Victorian government and a number of notfor-profits, including Foundation House, whose CEO is long-time refugee advocate and former parliamentarian Paris Aristotle. Ms Kapalos said that the long-term strategy was to ensure the Syrian refugees felt they belonged. While the priorities would include ensuring language, education, and health services, the multicultural commissioner said identifying employment paths was a vital part of the resettlement process. ticularly when these kind of issues arise," she said. "Part of our charter is to promote religious diversity and social cohesion, and we try to intervene by encouraging people to come together and creating opportunities for people of different faiths to meet and get an understanding of the other's community. "If we can try and educate and inform people, a small initiative can make a big difference." Ms Kapalos said she was disappointed over recent events in the town, when hundreds of demonstrators from interstate attended an antimosque rally. Bendigo residents show their support for the proposed mosque in the central Victorian town last weekend. PHOTO: AAP/BRENDAN MCCARTHY. "We're exploring how they might be integrated into arts and sports organisations, so we're engaging with soccer clubs and other bodies, and we're very keen for the corporate sector to join us as stakeholders." Ms Kapalos said part of the intake committee's responsibilities was to identify the best locations for refugees to start their new lives. "We're looking at regional and rural areas, where there's enough infrastructure and where Iraqi and Syrian communities are es- tablished already. Ms Kapalos made a visit to Bendigo recently in an effort to bring the opposing sides together over the controversial mosque proposal in the city. "It's important that the commission has a presence, par- "It's disheartening to see those displays and the psychological impact they have on residents," said the commissioner, adding that one of the most poignant messages she heard during her visit was from a local muslim community leader. "They're as worried as other members of the community and one said: 'We're just like everybody else, we're just normal people.' " Tassie Greeks welcome refugees Hobart Hellenes offer advice to Middle Eastern newcomers With Australia about to take the highest number of refugees since the early days of mass migration from southern Europe, two elderly Greek Australians in Tasmania this week reflected on their own experiences and offered advice to the latest wave of migrants. Responding to the crisis in Syria which has left over seven million people homeless, in his last days as prime minister Tony Abbott announced an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing the Middle East will be able to call Australia home. The policy shift will see the total number of migrants under Australia's refugee and humanitarian programs rise to 25,750 in a single year. Tasmania has committed to doubling its usual annual intake of refugees this year to about 1,000. Victoria will take four times that number and NSW is scheduled to receive about 7,000. As the nation reflects on the imminent arrival of the refugees, the ABC sought the advice of a previous generation who migrated Down Under in the years immediately after World War II. With just a few shillings in his pocket when he arrived in Melbourne in March 1950, Nick Anagnostis left his family in Lesvos in search of a new life in the southern hemisphere. "I was 15 years of age, I came on my own, without knowing anyone, and without knowing the language," he told the ABC. "I wasn't feeling well at all, I was in tears sometimes, because I was really, really on my own." His first job was in a family friend's milk bar in Sydney. At 17 he bought his first business, a restaurant in Port Stephens. Soon after he sold up and moved to Tasmania where he bought a second restaurant which he owned until the mid-sixties. In Hobart, where he later ran a successful corner store, he met his wife Helen, and three children and 10 grandchildren followed. “We should help those people. They should leave their problems behind and start a new life.” Nick says he feels for those displaced by the Syrian conflict, thousands of whom have sought refuge in his ancestral island on their journey to western Europe. "The island I come from is very close to Turkey, and every day there are hundreds and hundreds arriving there," he said. "We should help those people. They should leave their problems behind and start a new life. Forget where they came from because this is paradise, in every way. If there is paradise then this is where we're living," says Nick, who adds that Australia's island state has only one down side. "The only thing in Tasmania is, we've got beautiful beaches and the water's a bit too cold." Fellow Tasmanian John Anagnostoru came to Australia in 1951 when he was 26 with a young wife and child. John left Greece because of the inability to find work in the country shattered by civil war. After working for NSW Railways at Sydney's Central Station for a number of years, he moved his family to Tasmania to escape the racism and discrimination they experienced in the NSW capital. "We were known as 'new Australians'," he says. "Very unfriendly, people were. I mean, you'd go in a street for instance and ask someone for directions and they wouldn't stop to talk to you." John says Tasmanians were much friendlier and the fam- “If there is paradise then this is where we’re living.”: Nick Anagnostis with his granddaughter Sophia in Hobart’s Botanical Gardens. ily decided to stay. He went on to work for the Post Master General, now Telstra, for 35 years. He and his wife were blessed with two children and now have three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. John's advice to newly-ar- rived refugees is to take any job that's on offer. "Try to assimilate with the Australian people, and abide by the laws of the country," he said. "People should not be in their own corner, they should mix with the local people."
10 October 2015
24 October 2015