Refugee families heading to Cooma

MOVES are underway to bring several families of refugees to live and work in Cooma.

The move is being co-ordinated by the Rotary Club of Cooma which has established a special committee to examine the proposal, and bring it to fruition.

The plan involves working through appropriate agencies to identify a number of families and settle them in Cooma. The number is uncertain at this stage - it could be one or two, or perhaps five or six.

The agencies include the Immigration Department and organisations such as Red Cross.

The plan would be to assist the families to move to Cooma and help them to settle into the local community.

Assistance would be in the form of accommodation, employment, transport, and schooling for children.

It is not known at this stage from which country, or mix of countries, the refugees would come.

However, they would be people who have been found to be genuine refugees, and not recently-arrived so-called "boat people" who have yet to be processed and whose status is uncertain.

Whether the families would have originally arrived by boat, or whether they would be part of Australia's more formal humanitarian program, is not known at this stage.

The executive of Cooma Rotary will consider the plan at a meeting next week. If it is approved and the plan goes ahead, it would seem to be a fitting contribution by Cooma to the current refugee situation, given the Monaro's unique history in terms of absorbing thousands of people from different cultures during the construction of the Snowy Scheme.

The plan is still in its early stages but details have been drawn up, meetings held, and a program outlined.

The plan is in line with a program run by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which has directly settled humanitarian entrants in regional areas for some years.

There are more than 13,000 humanitarian entrants settled in Australia each year, and about 20 per cent are directly settled in regional locations such as Shepparton, Launceston, Goulburn, Albury, Toowoomba, Townsville and Mt Gambier.

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