The Welcoming Australia movement was birthed from within the Activate community - when our political leaders’ response to people seeking asylum was cruelty and prejudice, community members rallied around the call to say welcome to those seeking safety on our shores.
In 2010, the refugee and ‘asylum seeker’ debate was toxic. Despite a call for ‘ethical leadership’ from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), people fleeing war and persecution were being referred to as ‘the refugee problem’.
Public protests against the establishment of community detention facilities for people seeking asylum centred on keeping people out of Australian communities rather than concern for their safety and wellbeing. Protest signs such as ‘sink the boats’ were not uncommon.
The image of a child carrying such a message, advocating for the murder of people at sea, served as a chilling catalyst for change. ‘Middle Australia’ had disengaged from the extremes of a debate that had descended into hurling blame and abuse.
There was an opportunity and necessity to change the conversation – engaging people in a positive, humanising dialogue and building connections with new arrivals. Enter; Welcoming Australia; a movement committed to cultivating a culture of welcome.
Together, Welcoming Australia and Activate hosted welcome parties at the Bowden Chapel, jointly nourished a community garden and Activate supported the establishment of the Welcoming Centre, now located in Kilburn.
Over the years, Activate and the Welcoming Centre shared a property - but more than that, worked together to advance an Australia where everyone can belong, contribute and thrive.
While the Welcoming Centre and Activate are now gathering in separate locations, Activate continues to support and champion the Welcoming movement through partnering on advocacy projects and volunteering with programs and events.