Tasmanian safe haven for refugees

Tasmania's Brighton Council has spent just over a month preparing for 370 Kosovan refugees.

General Manager, Geoff Dodge, said Council's main role was to address the impact the refugees' arrival would have on the local community and any infrastructure requirements.

He said from the outset local people have been very supportive. "We held a public meeting which attracted over 250 people," he said. "This was a big turnout, and not one negative comment was made."

The Brighton Army camp, decommissioned just a week before the refugees' arrival, has a history of providing sanctuary to people displaced by disaster. In 1967 when fire swept almost to the centre of Hobart, it served as a bushfire relief centre.

Prior to that it was home to hundreds of Polish migrants who left their devastated homeland following the Second World War. "Many of those migrants settled in Brighton and still live here," Geoff Dodge said. "They remember the experience and are very willing to help now."

Geoff said the local hall, which was set up to collect donations of clothing, has been inundated. Council has installed a larger sewerage main and a new aerator to accommodate the influx of new residents. It also plans to set up a child care centre.

There were no problems ensuring these measures were in place on time. "Staff who installed the sewerage upgrade worked so enthusiastically on the project we are considering a form of reward," he said.

"With regard to the child care centre, other child care centre centres have offered support in setting up a new facility, including indoor and outdoor equipment."

Geoff said a scarcity of Albanian speakers has not been a problem since most of the refugees have English as their second language.

For further information contact Geoff Dodge, telephone (03) 6263 0333.