BY PERRY BROWN
& KATHY NEWNAM
FORSTER "This meeting is very encouraging", began Pat Thompson, in her address to the inaugural meeting of the Great Lakes Rural Australians for Refugees group, held in Forster on June 29. Thompson, one of the organisers of the meeting, commented that she had become frightened to speak out in the community.
"It's just not an issue that you can agree to disagree on", Thompson continued. This was the sentiment that led Thompson and others to hold the public meeting. Attended by 40 people, the meeting called for an ongoing campaign to express local community opposition to the government's treatment of refugees.
Local high school student Sally Tabner chaired the meeting and explained how her knowledge of the treatment of refugees had led her to initiate the group.
Forster resident Kathy Pongrac told the meeting of her experience as a refugee, arriving from Croatia in 1964 after suffering extreme hardship. Pongrac expressed her heartbreak about the Australian government's refugee policy, reflecting that when she arrived in the country there had been a relatively efficient system for asylum seekers. Pongrac expressed the sentiment of many in the meeting when she demanded to know why the current government was treating the refugees today in such an inhumane way.
The next meeting of the Great Lakes Rural Australians for Refugees will take place on July 13, 1.30pm at the Catholic Hall in Lake Street, Forster. Phone Sally on (02) 6554 5405 for more information.
From Green Left Weekly, July 10, 2002.
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