Think of refugees or asylum seekers at the moment and the last words you would have heard were likely to be mouthed by political representatives in their daily sniping over “border control” policies.
But behind the political point-scoring is a success story that was worth celebrating during Refugee Week this week.
Since Federation, Australia has successfully resettled more than 750,000, an impressive achievement for a nation of just under 23 million people.
Humanitarian arrivals have been a critical part of the Australian story since post-war refugees helped build the Snowy Hydro Scheme. Refugees continue to make their contribution in ways we Australians hold dear – on a football field, in business, in comedy, the arts and on the international stage.
Refugees embody the entrepreneurial spirit we admire. Some, like Frank Lowy, translated a survival instinct into business success, arriving in Australia in 1952 with little English to become Australia’s richest man. Sir Gustav Nossal arrived in Australia as a refugee and established a distinguished medical scientist and immunologist. The A-League and AFL boast players of refugee background.
Why does it work? Because when it comes to resettling refugees, Australia punches above its weight by providing the most comprehensive and sophisticated systems of support for resettled refugees anywhere in the world.