Photo: ABC News: Kristine Taylor
The arrival of six primary school-aged children allowed Mingoola’s (New South Wales, Australia) school to reopen.
Cousin Claire put another good link on Facebook–this one about the small Australian community of Mingoola, which was losing population and decided to welcome refugees just as its only primary school was about to close.
Greg Hassall writes at ABC Australia, “In the tiny township of Mingoola, on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, local woman Julia Harpham was grappling with a common problem in rural communities.
“The population was in decline, enrolments at the local primary school were down and farmers could not find labourers to help with manual work. Her town was dying before her eyes.
” ‘Many of us have children who work in the city and aren’t going to come back to the farm because things have been so tough on the land,’ Ms Harpham said.
” ‘You don’t like to see a community die. And there’s not much joy in a place with no children.’
“Three years ago the local progress association decided to take a leaf from the region’s migrant past and looked for refugees willing to move to the area.
“But when they began contacting refugee agencies they were told there would not be adequate support for refugees in the bush. …
“Meanwhile in Sydney, refugee advocate Emmanuel Musoni was grappling with problems in his community from central Africa. They had been displaced from Rwanda and neighbouring countries during years of bitter civil war.
“The majority had rural backgrounds before having to flee their homes for refugee camps. …
“They were resettled in cities where employment prospects were few, the environment was intimidating and many became depressed and isolated. …
“Mr Musoni led a small delegation from his community to Mingoola early this year to meet locals and see whether resettlement was viable.
“On his return he put out a call for families willing to make the move; within a week he had a waiting list of 50.
“He chose two families [with] 16 children between them. Six of the children were of primary school age, which would allow Mingoola Primary School to remain open.
“Meanwhile, the community began renovating several abandoned houses in the area to accommodate the families, who moved to Mingoola in April. …
“For those involved in this social experiment, the hope is that its success can be replicated elsewhere to help other struggling rural communities.
“Mr Musoni now has 205 families on his database wanting to move out of the cities and politicians have been watching the Mingoola project with interest.”