Clockwise from front: Yar Makuei, Welcome Scroll convener Jane Govett, Akech Kuot, Ipswich City Council Community Development Coordinator Brent Downes, Madit Makui, Elizabeth Mayen and Emmanuel Makuei.
Ipswich’s commitment to supporting diversity and the successful resettlement of refugees in Australia was celebrated when the Welcome Scroll passed through the city on Tuesday.
The scroll is being carried by Rural Australians for Refugees and for the past 12 months has been making its way from one Refugee Welcome Zone to the next.
Council signed a declaration officially making the city a Refugee Welcome Zone in June 2016, with 160 zones in existence across Australia.
Refugee Madit Makuei and his family, together with Ipswich City Council Community Development Officer Dr Brent Downes, welcomed the scroll to Ipswich.
Mr Makuei lives at Bellbird Park and came to Australia in 2002 from Uganda.
He is among the Lost Boys of Sudan, the name given to tens of thousands of children – mostly boys – taken from their families or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War between 1983 and 2005.
The boys often trekked long distances over a vast, unforgiving wilderness seeking refuge from the fighting.
What is a Refugee Welcome Zone
A Refugee Welcome Zone is a Local Government Area which has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community. The Refugee Welcome Zone initiative began in June 2002 as part of Refugee Week celebrations.
Source: Refugee Council of Australia
Mr Makuei said he had not felt safe in his life until he came to Australia and he was grateful for the opportunities he had been afforded.
He volunteers at Ipswich City Council performing data entry and other project support work for its Health, Security and Regulatory Services Department.
“I’m very happy that the scroll has come here today because I want to be a part of change,” he said.
“I have momentum now and I want to make sure I do something so that my children do not suffer like me, I have to make sure they grow up in a better position.”
Dr Brent Downes, Community Development Co-Ordinator at Ipswich City Council, said the Welcome Scroll’s visit was a good opportunity to celebrate multiculturalism in Ipswich.
“Ipswich prides itself on being an inclusive community and works hard to promote a sense of belonging among new and existing residents,” he said.
“The 2016 Census showed that 21.6 per cent of Ipswich residents were born overseas.
“The city is home to people from 163 different countries and regions, including Australia. This means we have a rich tapestry of cultures right here in Ipswich.”
Jan Govett is custodian of the Welcome Scroll.
Since it left Canberra some 12 months ago, she has been charged with taking the scroll from state to state, community to community.
She has so far taken it to five states and territories – ACT, Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.
“I’ve basically been on the road with it for 12 months on and off, with a few granny naps in between,” she said.
“I feel a bit like we’re a married couple, the scroll and I. It’s been good, everywhere we have gone people have been very welcoming.
“It’s a great conversation starter, people want to know what the scroll is all about.
“We thought it would be a great way of linking together all the councils that signed up to be Refugee Welcome Zones, to remind them they are not alone.
“We kicked off the scroll’s journey last year in Canberra and the plan is for it to go full circle and end up back in Canberra once it has completed its journey.”
The Welcome Scroll is 6m long and contains 113 mayoral signatures, with more still to be added.
Welcome Scroll convenor Jan Govett, Community Development Co-Ordinator at Ipswich City Council Dr Brent Downes and Madit Makuei welcome the scroll to Ipswich.