Governments at all levels have been urged to consider Queenscliffe as a possible haven for refugees fleeing the Middle East.
A number of locals have highlighted buildings, including the Queenscliff Fort, to potentially house some of the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi people who will be accepted into Australia in coming weeks.
One local tradesman has suggested a community working bee to restore the abandoned camp buildings on Point Lonsdale’s Toc H site.
“Why, when we have five unoccupied houses going to ruin near the Point Lonsdale lighthouse can’t we do something to help these people as a community,” said builder Bill Gorman. “I would hope they would do the same for our community if circumstances were different.
“I would be only too willing to offer labour etcetera to make these properties available to temporarily offer accommodation to these poor people,” he said.
Resident Maureen Harrison, who has helped refugees settle into the region over many years, urged the Borough to “make real” its newly declared status as a Refugee Welcome Zone (RWZ).
“The Borough could lead the way like the township of Nhill and make available accommodation and hospitality in Queenscliff. How wonderful would it be to have 100 people hosted [here],” Mrs Harrison said.
“We have several empty buildings in the Borough that with a little work - maybe even volunteer - we could offer to be used as accommodation for the Syrian refugees.
“I realise that the Borough does not own the buildings of the former Sims Lodge, the Eric Tolliday units, the Fort, and Toc H. These buildings have been empty for many months and could be used to house refugees as a temporary measure. Maybe the Borough could initiate discussion with the owners of these buildings and have them ready to go for new arrivals,” she said.
Federal Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson said a number of local communities within the electorate had opened their hearts to the refugees.
“Our local communities including Geelong, Colac and along the Surf Coast have always shown so much compassion in welcoming and supporting refugees,” she said.
“We have many wonderful local agencies which I know will play their part in providing these refugees with a new home, safe from the persecution of their homeland.”
Media reports suggested the majority of the refugees would be housed predominatly in city centres. However Bellarine MP Lisa Neville said no specific locations had been determined as yet. “It is heartening to know that people and groups within the Queenscliff community are expressing their willingness to support them.
“The Minister responsible, Martin Foley, in relation to accommodation has said that there are no specific places under consideration at the moment but his office is discussing such with relevant authorities. Personally I believe it is vitally important that we fully integrate refugees into communities as quickly and as effectively as possible including of course their housing needs,” Ms Neville said.
The Borough in recent days has sought government guidance on what role if any it could play in the crisis.
“I can confirm that Council has written to the Federal Government and State Government to confirm the Borough of Queenscliffe Council’s status as a Refugee Welcome Zone and to seek advice regarding the humanitarian settlement intake recently announced,” a spokesperson said.
Photos: Unused camp buildings at Toc H have been identified as possible accommodation for refugees. Inset, a young woman fleeing Syria last month. Image 123RF.
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