MP Lisa Chesters, Ah Pay and Ian Green. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

World Refugee Day took on a special significance in Bendigo last night with the inaugural Refugee Week Business and Employee Recognition Awards.

The awards recognise community members and businesses who through their diversity and inclusiveness, have made Bendigo’s refugee community feel at home.

Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said the refugee awards highlight the success of and dispel the myths about refugees in Bendigo.

Ms Chesters visited a site in Eaglehawk yesterday to urge the community to donation to the ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign.

Bendigo’s Karen community is running the campaign in the hopes of receiving donations to help build a three bedroom temporary home for refugee families resettling in Bendigo.

The home would enable people to settle in and start to learn about Australian culture, before moving to other accommodation.

“This is such a worthwhile campaign and something that I’ve seen develop over time, that’s why this week I’m making the pledge to buy 10 bricks,” Ms Chesters said.

“More than 2000 Karen refugees have made Bendigo their home and we have a number of people from Afghanistan and South Sudan settling here as well,” Ms Chesters said.

“The fact that more people are moving to Bendigo means we have greater diversity in our community, Our strength is in our diversity.”

The Karen community are also looking for English teachers for as little as one hour per week.

“If you’re interested in volunteering, this is a great way to help newer members in our community integrate and contribute,” Ms Chesters said.

The site at 20 Pine Street, Eaglehawk, owned by the Karen Culture and Social Support Foundation, will be home to a three bedroom house, communal dining space, Buddhist monastery and car park.

Karen community member Ah Pay said sport, community and jobs are what makes people in his community feel at home in Bendigo.

“The house will help people when they are new arrivals to settle in temporarily and we will help them to find a house,” Mr Pay said.

Adviser to the Karen community Ian Green said the finished project will be in three tiers, with the refugee house the first building to be completed.

The City approved plans for the lot in 2017, with only earth works completed since then and the community eager to see the project progress.

“The local residents here are wanting to see this get started and with some more state government funding likely, hopefully it happens soon,” Mr Green said.

It is estimated the total cost of construction, landscaping and fitting could be as high as $2 million.

To find out how to donate to the ‘Buy A Brick’ campaign, contact moonieinda@kcssf.org.au