Making the stranger welcome

05 Nov 2008

By therecord

The Edmund Rice Centre, inspired by the founder of the Christian Brothers, has created a new way to welcome migrants and refugees to Australia as its Director, Stephen Bowman, tells the discovery.                                   

Together: A weekend camp for migrant families and refugees organised by the Edmund Rice Centre in Mirabooka offers a welcome to their new country, Australia, by focusing on harmony.

On the afternoon of Friday 17th October 2008, 52 adults and 47 young people travelled to the peaceful and relaxed setting of Camp Kelly near Dwellingup in the State Forest area for a Harmony Weekend Camp experience.
“This was the second of two camps we have held in 2008 with the first camp in May of this year.
“After arriving, settling into accommodation and an evening Aussie Barbecue, everyone began to meet one another in an opening ‘Welcoming Ritual’ organised by Richard Mavros from the Edmund Rice Formation Team.”
“One of the elements of this ritual includes every participant writing their name and country of origin on a piece of card and placing this on a large world map. Sixteen countries were represented.
‘On Saturday morning all participants had the opportunity to learn about the Indigenous history and spirituality of the area, to learn some Nyungar language, to listen to the didgeridoo and songs, witness an “emu dance” and finally to participate in a bush walk through the forest and sample the local bush foods.
“George Walley and his cousin Frank were excellent presenters and both shared their own personal story”.
“After a short break for morning tea, individuals shared their own stories in small groups with others people they had not previously met. After lunch, an introduction about the diversity of religions in Western Australia was followed by short presentations on the Baha’i Faith, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism.
“This session concluded with discussion and sharing as well as recording the similarities that exist between faiths. These similarities were to be recalled later in the camp in the Multi faith Service. Saturday concluded with a multicultural feast with a large variety of dishes from around the world, a campfire and some very lively multicultural dancing and music led by Jackie (originally from Jamaica). On Sunday morning we celebrated a multi-faith service which brought together the Indigenous story and our own personal and faith stories and our reflections of the weekend.”
Stephen said, “The Harmony Weekend proved again to be very successful with new friends made, a greater appreciation for the richness of our diverse community in Western Australia and the beauty of the natural environment.”


Edmund Rice Centre director says survey beneficial 

“I was happy to see the questions asked by the Committee for Family and for Life of our agency relating to supporting families because I believe it is important that everything we do is supportive of the family,” said Stephen Bowman, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre in Mirrabooka. “Our educational programs certainly help individuals who, through their new learning, are better able to carry out their roles in the family and help other families who may not come to the Centre.”
“Just filling in the CFL survey form”, he said, “gave us an opportunity to review just what it is that we are doing and why we do what we do. At the same time I am looking forward to reading about other agencies and the sort of things they do to support family life. I believe we can all learn from and support each other”.
The Centre was established in 1998 by the Congregation of Christian Brothers and named for their founder, Edmund Rice, a wealthy 18th Century businessman-turned-educator-of-the-poor. Each week the Centre offers adult learning, youth programs, community settlement programs and life skills to 600 people.