Naracoorte Rotary Club fights for Afghanistan

SUPPORT: Members of the Afghan community and supporters came together for a candlelight vigil last month. PHOTO: Elisabeth Champion
SUPPORT: Members of the Afghan community and supporters came together for a candlelight vigil last month. PHOTO: Elisabeth Champion

Naracoorte Rotarians are reaching across the world to attract new members among Afghanis in the war-torn Middle East.

The club welcomes new members who wish to join the fight for our Afghan friends both in Naracoorte and in Afghanistan.

Club president Judy Stafford has been busy in the past few weeks, writing letters on behalf of the club to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Member for Barker Tony Pasin, urging them to help resettle Afghan refugees in Australia and offering their support.

She said the club wanted to help out not just the local Afghan community, but the loved ones still trapped in Afghanistan

"One of Rotary's core areas of focus is peace and conflict resolution and I think in this situation helping people to find peace is one of things we should be doing," she said.

"I think Rotary's task is to assist people to find peace and this is one small way in which we can help.

"Plus there is just a general humanitarian concern for the people of Afghanistan - what they are facing is terrible.

"That's why we've written these letters."

Mrs Stafford said the Naracoorte Rotary Club is pleased to support any Afghan migrants that are currently within the community or that may move into the region.

She encouraged other locals who want to do something in support of the Afghan community to write letters to their local members asking them to do more for those who are currently living and working in Australia and their families.

In the letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, she urged the Australian Government to increase efforts to resettle refugees from Afghanistan.

In a reply received from the Prime Minister, he says the Australian Government was working hard and would continue to ensure the safety of Afghan locals who had assisted the government.

"The Australian Government's priority has been ensuring the safe and orderly departure of our citizens, permanent residents and visa holders, including former locally-engaged Afghan employees and their families," the letter said.

"I know there is deep concern for the safety and wellbeing of the many Afghans who have worked alongside Australian soldiers, diplomats and aid workers over the past two decades. Please know we are continuing to do everything we can to help those who have stood with us, as we have done for many years."

It also said that Afghan temporary visa holders will be supported and will not be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation remains dire.

For Naracoorte locals who may wish to help out but are unsure what to do, South East Region advocate for Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service (STTARS) Rhett McDonald said there were two things locals could do to assist right here in Naracoorte.

"There are two things that I felt have had an impact and the first one is advocacy," he said

"I've been witness to some men feeling like they have allies in their resistance to oppression.

"To have someone come alongside them and say 'I think your cause is worth something' means they are being validated for the reasons that they did flee and to see that the guy next to them, who's never seen it or experienced it, actually agrees with me."

He said the best way to advocate for those living and working in Australia and their families is to advocate for the granting of visas and citizenship.

"The men aren't saying go and save Afghanistan and bring peace to it and give everyone a visa, they are just asking for the visa that's been processing for eight years," he said.

"Some of these people are Australian citizens - I have a couple of Australian citizens who have been waiting on visas for six years and nothing is happening."

He encouraged those who wished to help advocate for the granting of visas to consult with the local Afghan community to seek some advice about writing letters to local MPs and government bodies.

As well as putting pen to paper, Mr McDonald said there was a big need to support our Afghan friends and neighbours here in town.

"There is something else that's important and that is the fact that individual people in Naracoorte can offer condolences for their country, offer prayers for their country and thoughts and give hugs," he said.

"That does make an impact for these people.

'A lot of them do suffer in silence - they have a huge level of dignity and respect and not wanting to be a bother and not wanting to impose on people. that's something they hold really strong.

"They are not often reaching out, not because they don't need it but because they don't want to be a bother."