26 September 2023
Churches and faith communities are being asked to consider offering food and overnight shelter to a group of women refugees as they walk from Melbourne to Canberra for permanent visas.
The women left Melbourne on Friday and hope to complete their 650-kilometre walk to federal Parliament House on 18 October.
The Refugee Advocacy Network and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce are calling for assistance from church leaders and anyone else who might be able to offer the walkers support.
The groups said the women needed accommodation and food in some places, and hoped churches and communities in Victoria and NSW along the walking route would be able to rally support for them.
The walkers are also asking for assistance with the costs of their support vehicle, and other supplies.
Christ Church Anglican Kilmore and Seymour Baptist church were able to offer them overnight stays for the first two nights, and the Sikh community has also provided some meals.
Refugee Advocacy Network convenor Marie Hapke said she hoped other Anglican churches might consider following suite.
Christ Church vicar Father David Kerr said the parish council was able to help despite being asked at short notice if the group could stay the night.
Mr Kerr said Christ Church had no hall, so the women stayed in the building itself.
He said there was no sign the following day that the walkers had been there, apart from a note thanking Christ Church for letting them stay without hesitation about who they were or even what they looked like.
Mr Kerr said it was important to remember that they were not commodities and that the rights of the refugees was not just a Christian matter, but one of human dignity.
“Everyone is entitled to a home and sometimes that home is not necessarily where we’re born,” Mr Kerr said.
“We need to make our Christian and certainly [the refugees] voices heard to Parliament and to politicians who have forgotten how to be human and how to treat others with that basic human dignity. The refugees are human beings with lives and families and should be treated accordingly.”
The women will be in Arcadia South tonight, before heading towards Shepparton.
For more information about the women’s walking schedule, email email@example.com.
To follow their progress, see here.