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19 April, 2022

Town welcomes war refugees

FAMILIES fleeing the Ukrainian war zone have found a safe haven with their relatives living around Mareeba, and more are on their way.

By Robyn Holmes

Centacare FNQ is supporting the refugees with information and English language classes to ensure they can assimilate into the community. 

Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said around 15 people had travelled to the region to date but he expected a lot more to follow as the war between Russia and Ukraine shows no signs of a peaceful resolution. 

He said the refugees who had arrived had been sponsored by families who already live and work in the area, but locals were also putting their hand up to help. 

“I had a farmer contact my office who has a small cottage on his property which he offered which would be suitable for a small family and he has also offered them work,” Mr Entsch said. 

“It’s fantastic that there is family support for these people and it does take the pressure off government services when that type of support is there.” 

Centacare executive director Anita Veivers said the agency was expecting more people to arrive in coming weeks. 

“The small number of people who have arrived in Mareeba are staying with and being supported by family members who already live locally,” she said. 

“Centacare FNQ provides a welcoming space for everyone and is pleased to be able to work with all multicultural communities, established and newly arrived. 

“We are fortunate to have an excellent team which includes Ukrainian speaking staff.” 

Centacare FNQ can provide support to Ukrainian nationals in need of assistance in Cairns through the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP). This includes support for Ukrainian nationals in the Cairns region who hold nonhumanitarian temporary visas, such as visitor visas. 

Mareeba has always been a town that welcomes other cultures, with a reported 64 different nationalities living in the shire. Many Europeans chose Mareeba as their new home after World War II including Italians, Germans, Albanians, Croatians, Poles and Ukrainians. 

Mr Entsch said the Bosnian conflict from 1992-1995 had also triggered an influx of refugees to the region, mostly to relatives and friends already living in the Mareeba and Tablelands areas. 

“But the majority of those refugees did in fact return home after the war,” Mr Entsch said. 

Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin said she was “immensely proud of what we have achieved as a Shire, throughout our history” 

“With strong cultural foundations through our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to welcoming new residents from all corners of the earth, diversity and multiculturalism is a hallmark of our community. 

“As a child of migrants, I have a personal connection to the opportunities that are available to people who choose to settle here and have witnessed many families flourish in the shire. 

“The experience of people whose lives have been impacted by war will be different, however, I know that this community will welcome them.” 

Ms Vievers said individuals in the Far North Queensland region who may be in need of HSP support could contact Multicultural Australia on 07 3337 5400.

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