Queanbeyan set to become refugee welcome zone, but aren't we already?

Queanbeyan is becoming a “refugee welcome zone” much to the ire of some and delight of others.

Yet, the formal title about to be afforded our great city carries a sentiment residents embraced long ago.

While Queanbeyan joins about 90 other towns and cities across the country taking on the title, being a refugee welcome zone doesn’t actually do anything for region or its residents.

Queanbeyan is not going to be a place which settles Syrian refugees - or any refugees for that matter.

A council spokeswoman described the titled as a “symbolic gesture with no implications for resettlement and service provisions”.

Queanbeyan is not a refugee settlement zone.

And so the title of refugee welcome zone doesn’t actually hold any weight.

What it does do is send out a message to the broader community that we tolerate, if not embrace, diversity.

It only exemplifies what we already knew about our “big country town”.

We are an inclusive, diverse and multicultural society - from the first white person who settled in Queanbeyan on the banks of the river, ex-convict Timothy Beard, to the 2011 Census data which showed 30 per cent of Queanbeyan residents were not born in Australia.

Illustrative of this will be the hundreds of people set to turn out in harmony, as they do each year, to the multicultural festival held in Queanbeyan Park on February 28.

Many will have come from other countries and identify as Australians.

Australia, and especially our beautifully unique part of it, is not a place of intolerance.

In fact, Queanbeyan is one of the most culturally diverse cities in regional Australia, according to the council spokeswoman.

While we appreciate the debate on our Facebook page in response to stories about refugees, our platform is for community discussion and opinion - not for personal attacks.

By and large, the Queanbeyan Age does not see its role as dictating or setting moral opinion, on this or other issues. But on these points we are clear.

We unequivocally support tolerance, and we unequivocally support diversity.

And, regardless of whether refugees are or aren't to find their way to our great city at some time in the future, the Queanbeyan Age is not interested in promoting aggressive or belittling discussion.

If you can't make your point about any topic without aggression or personal attacks on our site, there's plenty of other places out there where you can - and our Facebook page is not the place for you.

To that end we will cut, heavily and unapologetically, personal attacks and aggressive statements.

The Refugee Council of Australia website said signing the declaration and becoming a refugee welcome zone can promote harmony, social cohesion and respect for human rights in the local community - something the people of Queanbeyan already do so well.

Let’s try to reflect those same qualities online.

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