Griffith City Council has erected three signs that inform people “Griffith welcomes refugees, migrants, new residents and visitors” at entry points into the town.
The dark-blue, light-blue and white signs appear on Kidman Way near Bunnings for those coming from Melbourne; on Burley Griffin Way for those driving from Sydney; and just past the Griffith Saleyards on Kidman Way for cars entering from the direction of Hillston.
The decision to put up the signs followed lobbying from Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) Griffith, a grassroots movement that advocates for compassionate treatment of Australia’s asylum seekers.
RAR convener Will Mead, the former principal of Griffith High School, first raised the idea of having refugee welcome signs at a 2018 Griffith City Council Communities Committee meeting, a forum that brings together councillors and ratepayers to address community issues and needs.
At a 2021 meeting, the Communities Committee resolved “that the information be received and refugee welcome zone signs be erected, with a letter sent to convener of Rural Australians for Refugees Griffith, Will Mead, advising of the committee’s recommendation.”
The signs were aimed at showing “new citizens, refugees and asylum seekers that Griffith City welcomes them and appreciates the contributions they make to our economy and community”, according to the minutes of the Communities Committee meeting.
“Not many people seem to know this, but a number of years ago, Griffith did sign up to become a refugee welcome zone, along with many other councils across Australia,” Ms Mead told Region.
The signs are similar to those that greet visitors to neighbouring shire Leeton, which say “Leeton, a caring community, welcomes refugees, migrants and new settlers”.
RAR Griffith member Pat Cox said: “RAR have long been concerned with the plight of refugees, but there are also many people in our general community who want to welcome refugees.”
There are also temporary flags flying in town to show support for the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, an annual international campaign that kicked off on 25 November.
These flags were put up after a collaboration between Soroptimist Griffith, which is part of a global movement working to improve the lives of women and girls, along with Griffith City Council and a local group named the Griffith Domestic Violence Committee.
“We want everyone to have respectful, healthy relationships and a safe home,” Soroptimist Griffith said in a statement.
”We are refusing to be silent on the issue of gender-based violence. We want better for our community, and for women and girls everywhere.”
The theme for the 2023 activism campaign is #wiredforchange and draws attention to gender-based violence that may exist online, particularly on social media.