Borough keeps pushing for refugee rights

July 2, 2022 BY

Queenscliff Rural Australians for Refugees, including member Jenny Brown, have worked closely with Cr Ross Ebbels on the borough's motion. Photos: SUPPLIED

THE FATE of a Borough of Queenscliffe campaign advocating for refugees to be moved from temporary to permanent protection visas will now not be known until the end of July.

The issue was to be formally considered at last week’s National General Assembly of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), the peak annual event for councils that attracts more than 800 mayors and councillors.

Due to time constraints, several motions were not put up for debate and were carried to July 28 when the ALGA board has its next meeting.

“Motions that are carried at the National General Assembly become resolutions and will be referred to the ALGA Board to inform future policy initiatives and for consideration in the development of future work programs,” an ALGA spokesperson said.

The borough is seeking support from the nations councils to pressure the federal government “to adopt a unified approach to transitioning refugees on Temporary Protection Visas or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas to Permanent Protection Visas as quickly as possible.”

The borough’s motion was previously considered and supported at the Municipal Association of Victoria’s state council meeting in 2021.

“In putting the motion, Council is meeting its responsibility as a Refugee Welcome Zone signatory and the commitment to upholding the human rights of refugees,” borough chief executive officer Martin Gill reported to council in March this year.

Refugee and QRAR member Nithi Kanakarathinam at the QRAR stall at the Pt Lonsdale Market.

“Council is putting the motion to ALGA because it is a strategic issue of national importance.”

Mr Gill said the borough’s 2021-2025 Council Plan compelled it to “advocate and work in partnership with other levels government and the private sector on issues important to borough residents” and linked to the community vision of having “a welcoming, connected and diverse community that is supported by informed and consultative leadership.”

The borough’s full motion asks the federal government to “adopt a unified approach to transitioning refugees on Temporary Protection Visas or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas to Permanent Protection Visas as quickly as possible.”

The borough has a long history of being involved in refugee advocacy issues – its motto Statio Tutissima Nautis translates to “the safest anchorage for seafarers.”

Hundreds of Kosovar refugees fleeing war in their homeland were housed at the former quarantine station on Point Nepean in the late 1990s, and a push to re-open the site to Syrians fleeing war in 2015 received the backing of Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, but it never eventuated due to the dilapidated state of the buildings and a lack of support services.

“The Borough of Queenscliffe is proud to be a declared Refugee Welcome Zone… refugees in our community deserve the same security we all enjoy,” mayor Ross Ebbels said of the 2014 decision by council to sign on as the 31st Victorian municipality to make the pledge.

“Temporary Protection Visas leave refugees vulnerable to deportation, and make it hard for them and their families to set up a new life in Australia… I’m calling on the Commonwealth Government to give all refugees on temporary visas the chance to become permanent members of our community by transitioning them onto permanent protection visas.”