REFUGEES who arrived in Australia before 2013 can now settle in Campaspe Shire.
The council opted in to the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) scheme recently.
The 2014 Federal Government scheme encourages illegal arrivals, who entered Australia before 2013 and engage within Australia’s protection obligations, to settle in a regional community.
SHEV allows refugees to hold a five-year visa, ensuring stability and access to work or study.
Most of regional Australia has opted in to the scheme. However, the Victorian Government allowed local shires to independently decide to join.
Echuca-Moama’s Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) chairman Christine Turner spoke to Campaspe Shire councillors last week.
‘‘The SHEV scheme allows for practical support for settlers,’’ she said.
‘‘Our interest in the matter came about as two families, who have friends here, wanted to move to the area, but discovered that the Campaspe Shire was not part of the scheme.
‘‘One family unable to move here had to settle in Bendigo where they knew no-one and found it difficult to adjust.’’
Ms Turner said the refugees were keen to take up any kind of employment, which would be beneficial to the community, particularly in high turn-over rate industries such as agriculture and hospitality.
She insisted there shouldn’t be reservations from the community over the implementation of SHEV.
‘‘The refugees eligible for the scheme have been in Australia since 2013, they are well aware of our culture,’’ she said.
‘‘Many of these people have worked, are knowledgeable of our politics and some even have their driving licences.’’
While there have been expressions of interest from refugees to move to the Campaspe region, Ms Turner suggested there would not be an influx, with Bendigo having welcomed about 25 refugees since 2015.
The RAR network has experienced great enhancement from welcoming refugees into their communities and Ms Turner believes Campaspe Shire will benefit from the introduction of refugees into our society.
Cr Daniel Mackrell supported the SHEV scheme as ‘‘diversity is important in our community’’.
‘‘The SHEV scheme ticks the five key points of the shire’s strategic planning and it is one step forward for our community,’’ he said.
Cr Neil Pankhurst was similarly positive.
‘‘Anything we can do to encourage others to come and use our facilities is good for our community.’’