A small Western Australian town says it will welcome Afghan refugees with open arms if they are sent for resettlement in the shire.
- A WA shire says Afghan refugees could fill jobs in agriculture and hospitality
- Mt Barker is already home to a Afghan refugee community
- The WA Chamber of Commerce says refugees could help provide much-needed workers
Mt Barker, part of the Shire of Plantagenet, near WA’s south coast, is already home to Afghan refugees who have settled over the past 20 years.
Shire President Chris Pavlovich said the region was in desperate need of workers and with its already established Afghan community, was an ideal location for resettlement.
“We have quite a presence of Afghan people within our community, there would be a natural linkage to try and draw some over to our region,” he said.
Resettling would boost workforce
Australian defence forces evacuated about 4,100 people from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country last month.
Over recent days, hundreds of those evacuees have been flown to Australian cities.
Priority for the humanitarian visas was given to people with family already in Australia, women and girls, children and persecuted minorities like Hazaras.
“We’re in desperate need for people to work on our farms, work in our towns,” Mr Pavlovich said.
He said the biggest logistical barrier would be accommodation but said the shire was looking into how it could house an influx of people.
“Accommodation is very scarce in all of regional WA at the moment,” Mr Pavlovich said.
He said he was aware that the accommodation issue was being reviewed and one option could be to house refugees in vacant farm houses.
Mt Barker’s strong Afghan community
Mr Pavlovich said the existing Hazara population in Mt Barker was an important part of the community.
“The Hazara-Afghan community has been very well received in our community, they’re fitting in surprisingly well because they don’t necessarily have strong English when they first arrive.”
WA Regional Chambers of Commerce chief executive Kitty Prodonovich said regions had a long history of welcoming people from overseas.
“They’re very proud of their multicultural communities, being able to welcome new people to their towns and cites,” she said.