Last week’s guest speaker was Ella Dixon from the Migrant Resource Centre. Ella has addressed our club previously. There is an established link between our club and the Centre, due to the working bee that our club undertook at the Centre’s Mowbray promises in building an outdoor deck there. Ella came again to inform our club about Harmony Day 2020. She looking for some volunteers to help with the running of the Day. The Migrant Resource Centre in Launceston was established in 1983 to provide settlement services and support to newly arrived migrants and refugees. It began quietly, but by the 1990’s the arrival of migrants in Launceston accelerated, coming mainly from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Eritrea, Liberia, Myanmar and Ethiopia. Many refugees had spent long periods in refugee camps, the Bhutanese particularly, had been waiting a very long time—some up to 17 years. Ella indicated that Australia accepts 18,750 refugees each year. They don’t get the opportunity to choose the country to which they are sent. Many are not well educated. Children who have spend long periods in refugee camp suffer from a lack of education. Many come to our country with little or no English. The Centre runs a ‘Drive for Life’ driver training program which aims to move people from L2 to P1. A driver’s licence greatly enhances a person’s employability. There are currently 88 persons on the waiting list and Ella said they are looking for driver-mentor volunteers so they can reduce this number. Ella said that the government funds programs for migrants and refugees for five years after their arrival. The Migrant Resource Centre seeks to establish and maintain good links with sporting clubs, education providers, churches and community leaders. The speed of integration of migrants and refugees into Australian society depends very much on their proficiency in English and their general standard of education. Ella then spoke about plans for Harmony Day 2020, which will be held on Saturday 21st March. Harmony Day has received support from migrant women who cooked traditional food and sold it at Sunday lunch time at the Inveresk Tavern. Harmony Day, Ella said, is a celebration of diversity and acceptance. It features food sharing, music and dancing. In 2019 the Day was held in Civic Square, taking advantage of the redevelopment of that space. The event was helped by pleasant weather and 2,500 people attended. It featured information stalls, a large chess set and singing groups. The Carnival of Nations was part of the day—a flag parade in which 26 countries were represented. The ABC and City Park radio stations sent representatives and some people were interviewed on radio—a new experience for them. The organisers are looking for a new venue for 2020. They are planning to offer free food and to encourage the cooks—mostly women, to mingle with the crowd, rather than being occupied with preparing and serving the food. Ella is looking for volunteers to help to manage the flag parade next year.