Monday, 20 June 2022

Rod, and I as a patron of the Australian Migrant Resource Centre, warmly welcome you to Government House to mark World Refugee Day.

As you will know, this year’s theme is Healing, a most fitting theme for everyone here today; you provide many caring and insightful ways to help refugees to rebuild and to heal.

Let us not underestimate the size of the task.

It is heart-rending to know there are 26 million refugees across the globe and that half of these are children.

We need look no further than daily news reports to witness the human face of these statistics, as the tragedy of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine is agonisingly played out before us.

Our hearts go out to the millions of Ukrainians taking the courageous step to flee their homeland to seek safety, leaving everything behind.

We also empathise with the 1,000-strong Ukraine-born community in South Australia and share their anguish for family, friends and their homeland.

Yet, against the backdrop of the horrors of war, we have been heartened by the stories of courage, resistance and humanity’s indomitable spirit.

Thankfully, South Australians have opened their hearts to Ukrainian refugees and made them feel welcome in a place where they feel they can belong.

Let us not forget that the decision to flee is only the first step in a long, hazardous journey - with refugees facing the threat of deportation, poverty, and possibly years in transit camps before resettlement.

Unfortunately, this is a story of upheaval and suffering both physically and mentally that has been told too many times.

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to focus public attention on the on-going need to speak out against injustice, and to enable people to feel part of a global response.

As an Australian diplomat I saw some of the incredible work of the United Nations and its attached agencies and of those countries which welcomed refugees and provided transit or resettlement.

World Refugee Day also enables a light to be shone on the huge contributions that refugees have made to nation building.

My esteemed predecessor, the Honourable Hieu Van Le and his wife Lan, epitomised the contribution that refugees make to our state and our nation.

From the time they stepped off that rickety fishing boat in Darwin and soon after made Adelaide their home, they were determined to give back to the community that had shown them the way to a new life.

Many others have followed in their quest to contribute to and build our nation both culturally and economically.

None have done it alone; there have been caring and knowledgeable organisations to show the way, navigate new rules, access services and connect people to community.

As an example, the Australian Migrant Resource Centre has resettled more than 150,000 people from all continents since its inception in 1979.

I also pay tribute to the Centre for convening SA Refugee Week for more than 23 years.

To everyone here today, thank you for being part of the solution.

You give hope, you give confidence, you spread kindness and help rebuild lives.

Above all, you help heal.