Bega Valley refugee signs to stay – “We won’t bow down to vandals”

By Elka Wood 14 March 2019

Bob Arthur, Sky Etherington and Angela Robbers attended the Bega Valley Shire Council meeting of March 13 in support of the ‘Welcome Refugees’ signs. Photo: Elka Wood

The Bega Valley’s ‘Welcome Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ signs will stay, following a 6 – 3 vote by Councillors.

Deputy Mayor Mitchell Nadin brought a motion to remove the orange metal signs to yesterday’s meeting.

“It would seem the community is divided on the issue; since the signs were installed they have been damaged, vandalised and even one sign has been stolen,” Cr Nadin told the meeting.

The signs were erected in June last year at the Shire’s four libraries, but they have been the subject of intense community debate.

“I’m sure Councillors’ intent was to create harmony in the community but it would appear they have also highlighted a deep division on this issue,” Cr Nadin said.

“It would seem sensible to withdraw the signs and instead leave the task of welcoming refugees or asylum seekers in the hands of individuals, business owners and community groups whose actions will far outweigh any gesture that Council could hope to accomplish through a sign.”

Cr Nadin argued that with a limited budget, it was time Council took a new approach.

“Spending $600 repairing or replacing these signs is not sustainable.”

Referencing a NSW Roads and Maritime study about the effectiveness of signage, Cr Nadin said that there is no evidence that such signs change social behaviour and suggested that as the public was not consulted when the signs were erected, there was clearly “social disharmony” on the issue, and Council should start again and consult more widely.

“I felt shame as a councillor seeing this social disharmony and the surge of vile commentary online,” Cr Nadin told the meeting.

Each councillor who spoke commented on “the barrage” of communications they had received about the issue, much of it inflammatory and insulting.

One of the Bega Valley's 'Welcome Refugee' signs. Photo: Ian Campbell.

One of the Bega Valley’s ‘Welcome Refugee’ signs. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Offering a countering point of view, Cr Cathy Griff suggested that council should not appear as though “we bow to vandals and criminals,” by removing the signs and offered her support for keeping the signs.

“I would like to offer reassurance that I understand the potency, the importance and the symbolism of the signs.”

Cr Griff also noted that the sign for Goats Knob Road at Mogareeka is continually being stolen and there is no question of not replacing it.

Tathra resident Angela Robbers spoke in favour of the signs.

“Current and future generations need these positive words,” Ms Robbers says “conversations about refugees may be challenging but it is time to start listening. For those of us who are displaying prejudice, such as vandals, it’s even more important. We can prevent further vandalism with education.”

Deputy Mayor Mitchell Nadin. Photo: Facebok

Deputy Mayor Mitchell Nadin. Photo: Facebok

In speaking for the motion, Cr Robyn Bain tried to convince the room that this need not be a debate about “whether or not we like refugees,” but simply a matter of deciding whether to maintain four signs.

“These signs have done the dead opposite to what they set out to do – which is to encourage inclusion. Why isolate refugees? We are who we are because of immigration and we welcome everybody, I don’t believe we need a sign for that.”

At the end of the discussion the Mayor called for a show of hands, only Crs Nadin, Allen and Bain voted for the motion. The majority of Councillors voted to keep the signs in their current locations and repair them as needed.

What's Your Opinion?

26 Responses to Bega Valley refugee signs to stay – “We won’t bow down to vandals”

Jenny Robb Jenny Robb 3:10 pm 15 Mar 19

Such tragic news coming from Christchurch. Ironically, the victims in this tragedy are peace-loving Muslims just going about their usual business. The very same people who are often targeted by those in our community who 'fear' refugees and immigrants.

Patricia Douglass Patricia Douglass 2:33 pm 15 Mar 19

that $600 could buy a lot of hay for our struggling farmer's,

Andy Fitzgerald Andy Fitzgerald 10:56 pm 14 Mar 19

What kind of turd vandalises a sign?

Rob Tweedie Rob Tweedie 6:36 pm 14 Mar 19

Load of rubbish and waste of money. There feel good signs for those that were instrumental in their placement nothing more. If you play by the rules your welcome to live wherever you want you don’t need a sign. Would a family of refugees feel unsettled if they didn’t see a sign. The signs actually cause segregation. Bad idea putting them up and worse idea keeping them up.

Kari Esplin Kari Esplin 6:25 pm 14 Mar 19

You need to read the whole motion before commenting. Local newspapers have sensationalised this... bit of a media trend really... (I am not suggesting About Regional is guilty of this) #honestandfairreporting

    About Regional About Regional 8:01 pm 14 Mar 19

    Kari Esplin You’ll find a link to the full motion within the story. Cheers

    Kari Esplin Kari Esplin 8:07 pm 14 Mar 19

    About Regional That is what I was referring to. You are the only media service that did this. I am so over poor journalism.

    Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 8:10 pm 14 Mar 19

    Kari Esplin yes, great journalism from About Regional, which seems to be lacking in many other media organisations.

Donald McDowell Donald McDowell 6:18 pm 14 Mar 19

I understood that Council had only approved a sign welcoming refugees and "asylum seekers" had been added without councillirs approving that addition. The point is germane since refugees is exclusively those who have been accepted as such by government. Asylum seekers is a term inclusive of both "legal and illegal" arriving persons yet to be accorded refugee status. Surely we would be welcoming refugees but witholding any sense of approval for asylum seekers til their claims be assessed and they become "refugees."

    Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 8:09 pm 14 Mar 19

    Donald McDowell some good points, but just want to clarify who has arrived illegally?

    Matt Neenan Matt Neenan 11:13 pm 14 Mar 19

    It is not illegal to apply for asylum

    Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 7:42 am 15 Mar 19

    Matt Neenan Correct! And by whatever means of arrival... plane, boat, hot air balloon.

Alex Leonard Alex Leonard 6:18 pm 14 Mar 19

BVSC stick to local issues that you are paid to do, your good at it when you stick to your (our) agenda 👍

Maryanne Beggs Maryanne Beggs 5:32 pm 14 Mar 19

As a community it is great to see the forward thinking of the people in the BVS and if this creates awareness and mature debate in the community I welcome it.

Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 5:21 pm 14 Mar 19

Good on Bega council for being a proactive and welcoming #RefugeeWelcomeZone.

Loureen Kelly Loureen Kelly 5:12 pm 14 Mar 19

Good on them!

Colin Patrick Butt Colin Patrick Butt 4:51 pm 14 Mar 19

This issue is so divisional to the community, it's a massive shame it's come to this, the signs are a bad idea in the first place there are other ways to welcome people other than displaying the fact.

    Peter Morales Peter Morales 5:03 pm 14 Mar 19

    They'll change their mind's Pat when the Apex gang's are running amok in their street's

    Colin Patrick Butt Colin Patrick Butt 5:06 pm 14 Mar 19

    Yep you ARE dead right Pete.

    Greg Noel Greg Noel 6:59 pm 14 Mar 19

    Fear and loathing in Las Bega!

Teddy Stein Teddy Stein 4:51 pm 14 Mar 19

Against a majority of people who don’t want this virtue signalling.

Never was put to a proper vote.

Don’t worry about what the real people think.

    Wendy Hunter Wendy Hunter 5:38 pm 14 Mar 19

    Teddy Stein “Real “ people? , oh of course , you meant that all those wonderful, compassionate, caring people in our shire are indeed, UNREAL! 😂🤣 onya Bega Valley! for standing up for Asylum seekers.

    Gerard Robbers Gerard Robbers 6:18 pm 14 Mar 19

    Are you are real person Teddy Stein Marisa Catlow?

    Stew McAllister Stew McAllister 7:22 am 15 Mar 19

    Teddy Stein the way I see it is these signs are to educate people about inclusiveness, after living in the shire for 35 yrs I think majority of people are, which means to me these signs are directed to a very small minority of people, this then reduces it priority, these funds could be very much better spent on so many other items to help improve the wealth fare of our community

    Deb Rozzoli Deb Rozzoli 9:13 am 15 Mar 19

    Wendy Hunter no I take her comment to mean the people who have a child suffering from a life threatening illness that that must 'gofundme' to raise money for treatment as the government doesn't in some instances or a domestic violence victim who is still currently having their life threatened who can only find short term stay solutions - that is REAL and ongoing. These people have NOT escaped yet but hey you feel good about a sign for people who are now safe for the most part (some are not because your argument is to welcome everyone even if they were once the persecutors of people seeking refuge previously- there are now people in our communities who are again fearful because of this 'bring them all in' mentality).

    Wendy Hunter Wendy Hunter 1:27 pm 16 Mar 19