REFUGEES who arrived in Australia prior to 2013 can now settle in the Campaspe Shire.
The council opted in to the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) scheme last Tuesday night.
The 2014 federal government scheme encourages illegal arrivals, who entered Australia prior to 2013 and engage within Australia’s protection obligations, to settle in a regional community.
SHEV allows refugees to hold a five-year visa, ensuring stability and access to work or study.
The majority of regional Australia has opted in to the scheme. However, the Victorian government allowed local shires to independently decide to join.
Christine Turner, Echuca-Moama’s Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) chairman, spoke to the Campaspe Shire councillors.
‘‘The SHEV scheme allows for practical support for settlers,’’ she said.
‘‘Our interest in the matter came about as two families, who have friends here, wanted to move to the area, but discovered that the Campaspe Shire was not part of the scheme,’’
‘‘One family unable to move here had to settle in Bendigo where they knew no one and found it difficult to adjust.’’
Turner explained that these refugees were keen to take up any kind of employment, which would be beneficial to our community, particularly in high turnover-rate industries such as agriculture and hospitality.
Turner insisted that there shouldn’t be reservations from the community about the implementation of SHEV.
‘‘The refugees eligible for the scheme have been in Australia since 2013, they are well aware of our culture,’’ she said.
‘‘Many of these people have worked, are knowledgeable of our politics and some even have their driving licences.’’
While there have been expressions of interest from refugees considering moving to the Campaspe region, Turner suggested that there would not be an influx, with Bendigo having welcomed approximately 25 refugees since 2015.
The RAR network has enjoyed positive experiences welcoming refugees into its communities, and Turner believes that Campaspe Shire will benefit from the introduction of refugees into our society.
Cr Daniel Mackrell supported the SHEV scheme, saying that diversity is important in our community.
‘‘The SHEV scheme ticks the five key points of the Shire’s strategic planning and it is one step forward for our community.’’
Cr Neil Pankhurst expressed similar sentiments.
‘‘Anything we can do to encourage others to come and use our facilities is good for our community,’’ he said.