A man helping to nurture community conversations about asylum seekers says he believed events like one which recently focused on people making change were good ways to bring people together.
The Outside the Square – Creating our Future event took place last Thursday and saw people sharing ideas and finding inspiration for creating a future for people and their community.
John Murphy was in the audience and said he attended because he was interested in building Bendigo as a connected community.
“Over the past few years there’s been a lot of great work done to connect people in Bendigo,” he said.
“Instead of just firing things off on Facebook or Twitter, it’s important to actually meet people and have a chat with them. The more that happens the better off we’ll be.”
Make a Change Australia’s Karen Corr said there were a lot of projects making a difference in Bendigo.
“But it’s going to take a lot to create the future we want, and it starts with a wish – a desire to do something more, something different, something now,” she said before the event.
Mr Murphy coordinated local Right Track Community Conversations, which the Asylum Seekers Resources Centre had encouraged to give communities tools for positive and effective discussions about immigration.
The initiative saw people holding conversations about asylum seekers in Bendigo’s kitchens and lounge rooms. Hosts could invite their friends, acquaintances or neighbours.
The conversations were polite and most people who attended did not have strong views one way or the other, Mr Murphy said.
“We don’t want to get into arguments. We want to have a conversation around a cup of coffee and a bickie,” he said.
A facilitator would start a discussion about broad Australian values of fairness, then share some facts about those arriving by see and seeking asylum.
From there, people could discuss how broad values of fairness coalesced with those applied to asylum seekers by the government.
The goal was not to tell people what they should think, though Mr Murphy said discussions did tend to be somewhat more sympathetic to the plight of asylum seekers in off-shore detention centres.
“For some people it doesn’t mean all that much, for others it means a fair bit,” he said.
To host or be part of a conversation contact the Rural Australians for Refugees – Bendigo on Facebook.
The next Outside the Square event was scheduled for October 26.