Aussies open hearts to Syrian refugees

Aussies open hearts to Syrian refugees

Around the country, Australians are opening their hearts and, in some cases, their homes to Syrian refugees.

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The announcement from Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday that Australia will take an additional 12,000 refugees amid the Middle East humanitarian crisis tapped into a positive spirit around the nation.

A listener to Melbourne radio station 3AW, Mark Stanley, offered a spare room in his house at Macclesfield in the Dandenongs to house refugees.

“It’s just basic human kindness. As Australians, in our DNA we have this inherent want to kick in and get things done,” he said.

The call triggered a number of similar offers.

Catherine Scarth, chief executive of refugee and migrant re-settlement agency AMES Australia says the idea might work.

“Generally when refugees come the first thing they obviously want to do is to feel safe but the biggest thing they talk to us about is wanting to connect to the Australian community,” she said.

“In a sense, ideas like this make that happen really quickly.”

The mood touched Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who has already suggested the Puckapunyal army base in central Victoria could house refugees.

“We should be proud … that we’ve got ordinary, hard-working Victorians who are prepared to open their homes and their hearts to make sure that people get a second chance at life,” he told reporters.

SA Premier Premier Jay Weatherill says South Australia expects to take about 900 refugees and will also pledge up to $4 million to help with the resettlement costs.

He says the old Inverbrackie detention centre in the Adelaide Hills could be ideal for the task.

“I’m receiving floods of offers from business people, from community groups, from individuals in our community who are offering up their homes, offering their resources to meet this humanitarian crisis,” he said.

The Maritime Union of Australia’s Queensland branch has agreed to pay for a Syrian refugee family’s transport to Australia and cover its accommodation and resettlement costs for the next 12 months.

“We want to help at least one family escape the horrors of the refugee crisis,” branch secretary Bob Carnegie said.

In Western Australia, Premier Colin Barnett has announced the state will take 1000 Syrian refugees as part of Australia’s once-off intake and will meet with agencies on Friday to formulate a re-settlement plan.

Syrian refugees could boost local communities and economies if they are allowed to resettle in regional areas, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria says.