Asylum Seeker Transport Concessions: A big step for inclusion
Photo courtesy SBS
Life in Sydney will become a little easier for refugees with today’s announcement that around 8,000 asylum seekers will be able to access transport concessions in NSW. Sydney Alliance Community Organiser Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis said the move was a small step for government, but a big step for inclusion.
“Being able to access transport will help asylum-seekers to participate in Sydney life and reduce the harmful effects of social isolation,” said Ms Ogilvie-Ellis. “But not only is this measure a profoundly practical step to improving people’s lives, it also an important symbolic gesture to say that asylum seekers are welcomed and valued in our community.”
Ms Ogilvie-Ellis said today’s announcement was also a credit to the thousands of members of trade unions, churches, mosques, synagogues, community organisations and schools who actively participated in the campaign. Other agencies that work directly to support asylum seekers were critical in lobbying for this change in policy.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
- If you haven’t already, please comment on the Premier’s Facebook page in support of his decision. Sadly many people on social media are attacking his stance on refugees.
- Share this good news with your Congregation on Sunday – either in the announcements or in the bulletin.
- Spread the news via social media, by sharing the Sydney Alliance post.
The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW & ACT was one of the organisations that played a key role in this campaign.
Many Uniting Church lay, school and clergy leaders took part in this campaign by speaking to local MPs, as well as sending letters and old tickets to the Transport Minister, Treasurer and Premier. This was crucial to ensuring NSW cabinet ministers knew their own constituents supported this change.
Particular credit goes to Rev. Michael Thomas from Willoughby Uniting and Rev. Dr. Rob Macfarlane from St. Ives Uniting. They stepped up and supported this campaign by building momentum on the North Shore. This was done through building a relationship with the Armenian Apostolic Church in Chatswood, encouraging local Congregants to become engaged, and they also took a lead role at last year’s North Shore Assembly.
Additionally, Ana Pararajasingham — who has had a long relationship as a fellow traveller with the Uniting Church Tamil Communities — was key in forming the business case that made this reform credible.
Ms Oglivie-Ellis said Premier Baird had made a commitment to the community on Australia Day that NSW could do more to help asylum seekers. “It is reassuring to see the State Government taking this step, especially in a climate where, too often, politicians seek to create fear and distrust of refugees. We congratulate the Premier on making this decision, and look forward to continuing to work across all sides of politics on a range of social justice issues.”
Sydney Alliance analysis has shown that the transport concession will come at no cost to taxpayers, as the cost of discounted fares will be offset by increased patronage. It will also bring NSW into line with the transport concession arrangements for asylum seekers in other states.
Stewart Prins, Sydney Alliance
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