Sometimes life really is a picnic. Dianne Jensen finds out why Redlands for Refugees is bringing asylum seekers and ordinary Aussies together over sausages, salad and plenty of cake.
It’s hard to imagine a better place to escape the city than Moreton Bay. And among those enjoying a Sunday afternoon of food and conversation are locals from Redlands for Refugees, hosting asylum seekers from the Romero Centre in Brisbane for a day out at the beach.
Redlands for Refugees got off the ground in 2013 at Trinity Uniting Church, Wellington Point under the leadership of pastor David Busch (now multicultural project officer in the Presbytery of South Moreton and current Redlands for Refugees coordinator). Trinity members were soon joined by other local Christians as well as concerned members of the public.
As the group articulated their mandate of advocacy and community education, they realised their coastal location presented a perfect opportunity to demonstrate traditional Australian hospitality. They contacted the Romero Centre, a Mercy Family Services support network, and organised their first picnic at Wellington Point.
“We are trying to do our little bit in our community to demonstrate love and compassion, and to show these people that there are some people who really care,” says Ella Tickle from Wellington Point Uniting Church. “Also, there aren’t many refugees in this area, and we wanted to educate the community that refugees are people just like them.”
There have been five picnics so far, followed by a series of welcome lunches hosted in homes in July.
Hospitality coordinator Lyn Moore is a member of the Catholic Star of the Sea church. She and Ella have witnessed the anxiety suffered by those caught in the bureaucratic limbo of visa processing.
“These people are constantly worried about visas—they don’t know whether they are going to be sent back and they are terrified of talking because of the threat to family at home,” says Lyn.
Many asylum seekers have become regulars at the picnics, she adds, forming friendships with local families.
Redlands for Refugees members are keeping asylum seeker policy on the public agenda by hosting information stalls and fundraising events, and attending Love Makes a Way rallies and prayer vigils. Last December the group held an exhibition of art by Tamil asylum seekers at the Cleveland Uniting Church Christmas lights display.
“As Christians we have to stand up about this issue,” says Ella. “How can you walk the walk of being a Christian and not care for and love these people?”
For more information visit redlands4refugees.blogspot.com.au