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Shepparton celebrates Refugee Week

Shepparton has celebrated the beginning of Refugee Week with food and music.

JARROD WHITTAKER June 17, 2014 3:32am

Fatima Muzaffari, Najeeba Ibyahim and Merci Bahati.


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Shepparton has ushered in Refugee Week with a selection of food and sounds highlighting the rich contribution of the region’s migrants to the community.

Refugee Week aims to highlight the issues affecting refugees and their positive contributions to the Australian community.

A function at Shepparton’s Maude St Mall yesterday launched the region’s Refugee Week activities in Shepparton.

Members of the region’s refugee and migrant communities attended the event, which featured a performance from African band Anointing Voices.

Taqi Haidari, 16, arrived in Shepparton after fleeing Afghanistan a year ago.

He now attends Shepparton English Language Centre, where he works on improving his English.

‘‘When I was in Afghanistan I was learning English a little bit,’’ Taqi said.

‘‘So when I came here it was a little bit hard for me.

‘‘When I came here to the language centre it was good, I improved my English.’’

His family arrived by plane in Brisbane before coming to Shepparton.

They have now secured permanent residency.

He said Australia was a great place to live.

Several support agencies and community organisations with connections to Shepparton’s refugee community were also on hand for the opening.

South Shepparton Community Centre community engagement officer Melinda Piggott works with refugees and other migrants twice a week providing English classes.

Ms Piggott said taking part in the classes was a ‘‘very, very special’’ experience.

‘‘We’ve had a lot of Afghanis, we’ve had people from India and Spain,’’ she said.

‘‘Their needs are so few and they appreciate everything we do and we appreciate their company. They really are lovely people.’’

The classes focus on day-to-day English, such as vocabulary needed to go shopping, and to get by in home life.

They also include formal grammar lessons.

‘‘It must be so hard, especially at home watching TV that you can’t understand, you can’t work and you can’t go anywhere,’’ Ms Piggott said.

‘‘So we’ve gone shopping and we’ve gone to the supermarket and we’ve bought food and came back and cooked it together.’’

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan addressed the function, praising the contribution of refugees to the region.

‘‘We all know Greater Shepparton is a very diverse and multicultural community, with more than 13 per cent of our population being born overseas,’’ Cr Houlihan said.

‘‘So many refugees as you would know have settled here for those reasons and council is pleased to contribute to their happiness.’’

South Shepparton Community Centre’s English classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30am to noon and cost $1.

For a list of Refugee Week activities, visit www.refugeeweek.org.au

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