Benalla forum to discuss future of refugees

By Benalla Ensign

The future of refugees in offshore detention will be in the spotlight at an upcoming Benalla forum, hosted by former Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan this week.

Ms McGowan has joined forces with Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) to host a series of forums across the country, including at Benalla Uniting Church's John Cooper Hall on Friday, September 13, at 2pm.

The next steps for those supporting refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru will be the focus of the event.

“What I hear people saying is that we can’t continue to use Pacific as a dumping ground,” Ms McGowan said.

“We must find another solution. These forums will explore actions that individuals and groups within the community may take, including writing to their MPs and petitioning the Australian Senate."

Ms McGowan said it was time for a pragmatic decision by the Australian Government.

“The existing situation is costing us too much in terms of money and Australia’s reputation in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific,” she said.

Ms McGowan said in light of meetings in recent months between Mr Morrison and the Prime Ministers of PNG and New Zealand, she wanted to know how the government would achieve an outcome to the unresolved issue of the indefinite detention of more than 300 asylum seekers and genuine refugees now in PNG.

“I encourage all community members to attend a forum and share their ideas and suggestions to support the Australian and PNG governments working together to achieve a timely and smooth resolution to this issue," she said.

For more information about the forums, phone Rural Australians for Refugees' Marie Sellstrom on 0417 398 528.