LAST Friday the Ballarat Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Network held a workshop in Ballarat with John and Margaret Millington. The couple shared their positive and community stories about settling Burmese Karen families in their hometown of Nhill and how this could be adapted for other regional areas.
John and Margaret have devoted a large amount of their time serving the community and both have been recognised with an Order of Australia (OAM) for their various work. Both love the Nhill community because it is inclusive and welcoming. They are personally responsible for the successful resettlement of 200 Burmese Karen refugees to Nhill.
Many of the Karen people suffered torture at the hands of the Burmese junta, and now have a life in Nhill that they never dreamed possible. John and Marg are very inspiring individuals who always try to put others first.
Together they work tirelessly to make the wider Wimmera region a better place in which to live. Cath McDonald is a member of Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children Ballarat Planning Committee and said she has heard John and Marg speak before and was eager for them to come to Ballarat. “The fact there are refugees needing safe places that are welcoming and we also heard there are refuges in Melbourne that need to find places in rural or regional areas, so we thought if we put it all together – lets float it out there and see,” she said. “So we invited lots of different people – business, service providers, the general community and we just thought let’s see what happens.
“This is going to happen so we need to be prepared as a community of people who are willing to help but also the general community has to be prepared, as well.
“I think there are many great people in Ballarat who are willing to welcome people who have really had a really rough life coming from overseas, the hardship and all the rest of it, and to offer a welcome, offer a home.” Marg Millington said the message was simple, “Life is about caring for each other and when the Karen crossed our paths they needed a lot of help and it was interesting because we had just lost our son so it didn’t replace our son but it gave us a new positive focus, we are faith filled people and we believe that we were given the Karen to assist them.” The message from John is just as simple, “If we all give back something to someone the world would be a better place. Sure we are all busy looking after ourselves in our own little house, our world, how can we think about those who have nothing? We need to look after everyone, everyone deserves a place in this world.”