By Jamie O’Brien
The Justice, Ecology and Development Office last month joined hundreds of West Australians in welcoming refugees, migrants and visitors to Australia at a family fun day at John MacMillan Park.
Director Carol Mitchell said it was wonderful to see such a joyous welcome expressed to those from many other nations.
The event, said Mrs Mitchell, was a strong reinforcement for those within the Justice, Ecology and Development Office community to live out the invitation of Pope Francis who has encouraged the Catholic community internationally to welcome refugees and migrants with mercy and compassion.
Mrs Mitchell went on to say she was joined at the event by former Kalumunda parish priest, Fr Greg Donovan, and Ashraf Mohammad. Fr Donovan and Mr Mohammad were both keynote speakers at the recent Perth launch of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Social Justice Statement in September.
Hosted by ABC Presenter James McHale, the event included presentations by 2015 West Australian of the Year, Dr Robert Isaacs, and South Sudanese refugee, Meterno Biwott.
State Director of Welcome to Australia, James Jegasothy, said the event showed the diversity and true spirit of Australians who just needed an opportunity to express such a welcome.
Mr Jegasothy is a refugee who fled from Sri Lanka with his parents and brother when he was a child. He appreciates the welcome his family received when they came to Australia.
“I want people who come these days to feel the same welcome I felt,” he said.
The speeches were followed by an Aboriginal Welcome to Country that included the didgeridoo with some back-up drumming to encourage dancing participation from the gathering crowd.
The Noongar welcome included a Smoking Ceremony, with the participants then being encouraged to walk through the smoke to ward off bad spirits and welcome good spirits.
Acknowledgement was also made of the first-year anniversary of the Town of Victoria Park being recognised as a Refugee Welcome Zone; noting the John MacMillan Park is an appropriate venue for such a welcoming gathering.