Asylum seekers enrich their community

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Artwork gifted to the Sacred Heart Church community from one of the asylum seekers

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While the issue of asylum seekers in Australia continues to dominate our media mostly in negative terms, Good Samaritan Sister Annette Dever says there is a good news story to be told about Leonora’s asylum seeker experience, the Good Oil reports.

It’s now just over 12 months since the first group of asylum seekers was transferred from the overcrowded detention facility at Christmas Island to the remote mining town of Leonora, 830 kilometres north-east of Perth in Western Australia.

Annette, a parish pastoral worker since 2003 in the communities of Leonora, Laverton and Leinster, said the asylum seekers – mostly family groups and single women from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran – live in good conditions at the Leonora detention facility and are supported in a caring manner by the staff.

She also said the interaction of asylum seekers with local people and their participation in community events - accompanied by detention centre staff - had been beneficial.

Annette admitted that initially there were some negative reactions from the local community about the asylum seekers, but these were largely exaggerated in the media.

“It was only first impressions because [the local people] didn’t know [the asylum seekers] were coming,” she said. “Once they got used to [the idea] and realised what it was all about, it didn’t make any difference to the town. They accepted it.”

Annette believes the presence of the asylum seekers in Leonora has been a mutually enriching experience for all concerned.

“They are such beautiful people and just having been here has made a difference. Whether [local] people realise it or not, [the asylum seekers] are a gift to the town, and the [local] people are a gift to them because they are struggling; they don’t understand the language, they don’t understand the culture,” she explained.

Not long after their arrival in June 2010, Annette was asked to lead regular prayer services at the detention centre for the Christian asylum seekers. She said there was a “tremendous response” to the first service.

FULL STORY Leonora enriched by asylum seekers (Good Oil)

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