Archived News Item

Support and Welcome in Bathurst

Bathurst community has always had a welcoming heart.  From the world wars, welcoming people fleeing from the violence to those seeking refuge today. Here we see Members of the Bathurst Refugee Support Group Ruth Schmidt, Judy Thatcher and Sister Pat Linnane looking at the renovations to the Kath Knowles House of Welcome located in Bathurst on lower Busby Street. The renovations are care of the wonderful institute of the Sisters of Mercy Australia and PNG.

Members of the Bathurst Refugee Support Group (BRSG) have been researching how welcoming the local community was during the Second World War to members of the armed forces, who often had a break from service in the Bathurst Camp.The little school house on Howick Street is Bathurst’s original House of Welcome. Members of Catholic United Services Auxillary (CUSA) and National Catholic Girls Movement (NCGM) offered hospitality in this building during the Second World War. Many older families in Bathurst may recall inviting members of the armed forces for a traditional Sunday baked dinner as part of this welcome.The Kath Knowles House of Welcome has carried on this tradition for the last two years. It has enabled BRSG to offer respite care and short term hospitality for more than 200 people referred to them by peak bodies in metropolitan areas, who work with refugees in the aftermath of torture and trauma.Both houses have their own story to tell, but members of the support group are busy with future developments as they plan additional rooms and update the facilities on offer.  Sr Pat said financial community support is always greatly appreciated.

BRSG get their mandate from the 2004 Regional Council’s application to the Refugee Council of Australia’s Welcome Zone declaration. Its mission is one of education and hospitality for refugees and asylum seekers, with the belief that education is the key to social change.At a recent meeting, students from St Stanislaus and MacKillop Colleges indicated a desire to carry a similar mission to the youth of Bathurst and nearby areas in the form of a ‘Youth Speaking to Youth – Project’. One activity will be to bring the Human Rights Council of Australia president professor Gillian Triggs to the Youth Forum in August. Julian Burnside’s letter writing campaign for youth in detention is one of the other key activities that the group will support.One of this year’s events will involve the refugee group and Charles Sturt University’s Bathurst campus.  CSU has offered to host a forum where former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning will speak about the implications and issues of human rights.  The forum will be held on World Human Rights Day, Wednesday December 10 and the BRSG group ask people to keep this date in their diaries.

In conclusion Sr Pat offers a quote from Paul Hawken’s book “Blessed Unrest”:
We are part of the Earth’s immune system, each time we exercise our active compassion in the name of social justice and ecological health. The mover and shakers on our planet are not the billionaires and the generals. They are the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for their neighbour, and for the Earth who are resisting remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing the communities in which they live.

This is the foundation of our work. BRSG meet on the fourth Thursday each month from 5pm at Rahamim 34 Busby Street, Bathurst. Call 6332 5894.

Acknowledgement: Text: "WESTERN ADVOCATE", Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Photo: Chris Seabrook

Messages to: Pat Linnane rsm