17.1 C
Byron Shire
September 22, 2023

Welcome packs for refugees in Ballina discussed

Latest News

Tweed Council seeks businesses to join it’s rail trail ‘Connect Program’ 

Paying for the maintenance and providing an engaging visitor experience for the Tweed section of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is a key aspect of Tweed Shire Council’s (TSC) Connect Program. 

Other News

Byron Hinterland Seed Savers

Byron Hinterland Seed Savers are coming to Mullum Farmers Market this Friday, 22 September at 8am for a seed swap. Bring any excess seeds/cuttings you have and come and collect some free seeds and cuttings.

Facelift for Cape Byron walking track – but not everyone happy

The Cape Byron walking track that leads from Wategos Beach towards the Byron lighthouse has been given a ‘facelift’ by NSW National Parks. But not all users are happy...

Cartoon of the week – 20 September 2023

The Echo loves your letters and is proud to provide a community forum on the issues that matter most to our readers and the people of the NSW north coast. So don’t be a passive reader, send us your epistles.

Iron Gates development at Evans Head: application to ‘amend’ DA refused

The Land & Environment Court rejected an application to amend a development application for a satellite residential development at the controversial Iron Gates site at Evans Head. 

Varroa mite here to stay as NSW pivots from eradication to management of costly invasive species

The Varroa Mite ‘(Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni) is a parasite of adult honey bees and honey bee brood....

Basketballers head to the Cavanbah Centre for carnival

Byron Bay Basketball Association held their senior carnival at the Cavanbah Centre last weekend in preparation for hosting Sunshine...

Celebration of Refugee Week and World Refugee Day 2023 at Lennox Cultural Centre. Photo supplied.

Ballina Shire Council opened yesterday’s meeting with a proposal from Cr Kiri Dicker that welcome packs be offered to local international refugee families. These would include a three month family pool pass, a Richmond Tweed library card, and temporary memberships to Ballina Indoor Sports Centre and Northern Rivers Community Gallery.

Marilyn Leeks from Ballina Region for Refugees spoke in support of the motion, explaining that the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (CRISP) initiative was inspired by a successful Canadian model.

Cr Kiri Dicker said she’d been surprised to discover that Ballina was declared a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2015 by former mayor David Wright.

‘We have had two families settled in the Ballina Shire under this program, one from Syria and one family from Venezuela,’ she said.

Anna Dicker. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Dicker noted that she had grown up in an environment with ‘deep compassion for refugees’, as her mother Anna Dicker (now known for her work with Australian Seabird Rescue) had been a humanitarian aid worker for many years.

‘I think that leveraging our community assets is one of the best ways that we can support the refugee community,’ she said. ‘It comes at no cost to ratepayers, and it can make a really great contribution to helping people feel connected when they arrive in this country.

‘I can’t think of anything more difficult than having to resettle in a new country and build those social networks,’ she said. ‘The kind of places that you do that are at the pool, at the library and playing sports and engaging in artistic and cultural events.

‘So this is one small way that we can put into practice our status as a Refugee Welcome Zone, and I hope that you find it within yourself to support it today,’ said Cr Dicker.

Former Ballina Mayor David Wright. Photo David Lowe.


Mayor Sharon Cadwallader downplayed former Mayor Wright’s gesture, saying that it merely signified that Ballina extended a welcome to all refugees.

Cr Rod Bruem wondered how many potential recipients there might be for the welcome packs. (Cr Dicker’s motion specified a limit of three per annum).

He went on to claim that Australia was the most welcoming country in the world when it comes to refugees, congratulating BR4R on their growth at a time when other community organisations are struggling for volunteers.

Cr Bruem said he supported the idea of welcome packs, but had some concerns about handing out free pool passes.

Wardell’s Cr Nigel Buchanan spoke against the welcome pack idea, asking where it would stop. ‘The argument that it’s not a cost is incorrect,’ he said. ‘Anything that we give away is a potential loss in revenue, which is a cost to Council.’

Cr Eoin Johnston. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Eoin Johnston spoke in favour of the idea, making a long speech about his compassion for people he’d encountered over the years who had escaped war zones and found new homes in Australia.

He said that it was untrue that migrants were taking all the Australian jobs, as in many cases they were doing jobs local born Australians didn’t want.

‘This is Ballina Council giving away a pittance, he said. ‘We’re saying welcome to this country, we’ll give you a little bit of a kickstart, and help you make a success of your transition.’

Cr Johnston noted that the motion was limited to three welcome packs a year. ‘If we can’t do something to help three immigrants coming from dangerous situations to our shore, and be made to feel welcome, then something’s wrong with us, I suggest.’

A useful token

Cr Steve McCarthy also spoke in support of the motion. ‘At the end of the day, it’s just a token,’ he said, also noting the large number of immigrants and refugees dying in Australia each year because they cannot swim. Cr McCarthy said the pool passes could help address that problem.

Ballina Cr. Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Jeff Johnson also spoke in support, saying ‘we should be focusing on the benefits of this rather than the perceived financial costs for giving out a swimming pool pass which would otherwise just be sitting in the council administration building.

‘I see benefits in assisting people who come to our community, who have clearly suffered, and had a very traumatic experience. I think this is the least that we can do. I’m not sure why it’s limited to three offerings per year,’ said Cr Johnson.

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader spoke about meeting the local refugees with the Governor General when they were visiting Lennox Head, supporting the idea of swimming lessons for newcomers, and noted that Australia had welcomed 165,000 new citizens to Australia in the last year, from over 200 nationalities.

She said the Lions Club had previously distributed care packs to new citizens in Ballina but that had fallen by the wayside, saying information about Ballina Council’s activities would also be a useful part of the welcome packs.

Ballina Cr Kiri Dicker. Photo David Lowe.

Facebook vitriol vs community warmth

Cr Kiri Dicker closed the debate, welcoming the support of fellow councillors and noting the ‘unfortunate comments’ on social media surrounding the issue.

‘There were also some really positive comments,’ she said. ‘Someone who owns a swim school is already wanting to donate swimming lessons, which is fantastic.’

Cr Dicker told the story of a flood-affected resident of Wardell who supported the welcome pack idea, and said she would personally welcome refugee families to a cooked lunch as soon as she was able to get back into her home.

‘People who actually suffer or witness suffering firsthand, I think it makes you more compassionate, not less compassionate,’ she said. ‘So thank you to everyone who spoke, and thank you for your support.’

The motion passed with support from all councillors except Cr Buchanan.

More stories about Ballina Shire Council:

Cumbalum residents left wanting as estates fail to provide basic services

Plenty of housing has been built in the Ballina Shire in recent years but Cumbalum residents are still waiting for services including childcare, groceries, dog parks and decent reception.


Ballina councillors and landowners still unclear on conservation zones 11 years...

Officially recognised environment conservation zones in the Ballina Shire are to be voted on in November, eleven years after they were first suggested.


Golden Ticket for Lennox after months of disruption

Ballina Shire Council is hoping to assist businesses in Lennox Head with a Golden Ticket promotion launching later this month.


Conservation Zone briefing open to public in Ballina

On Monday at 4pm there will be a briefing from Ballina Council staff to councillors about proposed Conservation Zones for Ballina Shire. The briefing is also open to the public, but there will be no opportunities for two way debate with councillors, as this is an educational opportunity about what is on the table and potential routes forward.


Ballina Council wrap-up

Ballina Shire Council's August meeting covered refugees, parks, rubbish collection and development issues, with controversy over local government ward boundaries spilling over into an additional meeting the following week. Proceedings opened with a debate about whether welcome packs should be...


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


    • You mean like the housing shortage caused by there being too many people in the area for the number of houses available?

      • You have to pass over quite a few brown countries to get to Australia. But those countries don’t hand out free pool passes, library cards, and infinite welfare. But for some reason, they travel all that extra way, just so they can live among all the evil racist White people. Yet few question it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Facelift for Cape Byron walking track – but not everyone happy

The Cape Byron walking track that leads from Wategos Beach towards the Byron lighthouse has been given a ‘facelift’ by NSW National Parks. But not all users are happy...

Varroa mite here to stay as NSW pivots from eradication to management of costly invasive species

The Varroa Mite ‘(Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni) is a parasite of adult honey bees and honey bee brood. It weakens and kills honey...

Cycling race in Lismore this weekend to raise money for Westpac Rescue Helicopter

Whether it is getting on the track or watching the cyclists there are plenty of ways to get on board with the Lismore 2023 – Byron Bay Cycle Club Road Race this Sunday 24, September in Lismore’s CBD.

Labor’s budget falls short on flood funding: MP

Tamara Smith, Member for Ballina and NSW Greens Disaster Relief Spokesperson, has welcomed an additional $150m in funding for the Northern Rivers and Central West flood recovery in Tuesday’s NSW budget.