Resettlement of refugees could save rural towns

A vineyard at Mingoola which lies inland on the NSW/QLD border.
A vineyard at Mingoola which lies inland on the NSW/QLD border. Photo Contributed

A SMALL town saved from death by introducing refugees with farming backgrounds has attracted the interest of member for Page Kevin Hogan.

Mingoola, on the border of NSW and Queensland inland, was featured on ABC's Australian Story after residents enlisted the support of National Party MPs Barnaby Joyce and Thomas George to resettle a group of Rwandan refugees from Sydney.

The refugees were reportedly farmers in Rwanda and were finding city life challenging, while the primary school in Mingoola was facing closure thanks to a declining population.

Residents, refugee supporters, Mr Joyce and Mr George joined forces to overcome hurdles such as a lack of existing support services for refugees in Mingoola and 29 refugees, including children, made the move.

Farmers have employed their new neighbours to do seasonal work previously done by backpackers and the primary school now has enough students to stay open.

Mr Hogan said he hoped to visit Mingoola next year and if he couldn't go, "at the bare minimum" someone from his office would go.

He said he was proud of existing refugee resettlement programs in his electorate, including the Sanctuary group in the Northern Rivers and "definitely wouldn't close the book" on the idea of mimicking Mingoola's success in a small town in Page if feasible.

"Obviously there are more remote towns the further west you go but population growth is good for every area," he said.

The comments came after Amnesty International Lismore Branch Coordinator Anne Tuart said a strict twenty minute session with Mr Hogan had turned into forty-five minutes when the subject of Mingoola came up.

Lismore City Councillor Eddie Lloyd has backed the idea.

"We know that Kevin Hogan's got a big heart and Lismore is all about coming to the heart," she said.

"We hope he will go and visit that town and bring back some knowledge to the town of Lismore."

Mr Hogan accepted Ms Lloyd's endorsement, saying: "we all have the good of the community at heart".

Topics:  amnesty international barnaby joyce kevin hogan lismore thomas george

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