Media Release Update
Who: Neil Para
What: 1000 km Refugee Walk For Freedom from Ballarat to Marrickville
When and where: Friday 8 September 2023, 8am, Camden Showground.
When and where: Saturday 9 September 2023, 7.45am, Liverpool Regional Museum
Refugee supporters and locals are invited to join Neil on his extraordinary walk into Sydney next Friday 8th and Saturday 9th of September 2023.
Neil will walk from Camden to Liverpool (29km) on Friday. He continues from Liverpool to Canterbury (20km) on Saturday.
People wanting to join Neil are warmly encouraged to join Neil as he continues into Sydney.
Refugee support groups People Just Like Us, Asylum Seeker Centre and Southland Shire Refugee Connection are supporting Neil as he enters Sydney.
Fabia Claridge of People Just Like Us says the public are invited to join Neil as he walks on the concluding days through Camden, Willowdale, Liverpool and on to Canterbury.
“Neil has been met with open arms all through Victoria and New South Wales, and we are excited to welcome him and support him as he walks on these last stages in Sydney. We invite anyone who wants to walk with Neil to join us at Camden Showground for an 8am departure or Willowdale Shopping Centre for lunch.”
Walkers can join Neil at the following points:
Thursday September 7:
When Neil arrives in the Greater Sydney Area on Thursday, Tamil organisations in Sydney, including Australian Tamil Refugee Council, Consortium of Tamil Organisations NSW/ACT, TRACK (Tamil Rehabilitation and Community Konnection), THADAM, Australian Tamil Congress, Uniting Church Tamil congregation, together with Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce of National Christian Council will host a dinner to welcome Neil. Details from Joyce Fu.
Friday September 8:
8am Camden Showground (Cnr Mitchell St. & Cawdor Rd.)
12pm Willowdale Shopping Centre
Finishing at Liverpool Regional Museum
Saturday September 9:
7:45am Liverpool Regional Museum
9:15am Davy Robinson Reserve Boat Ramp
10:30am McDonald’s Revesby / BP Services
12:15pm Wiley Park (Lakemba, Edge St entrance, near the parking)
2.15pm Arrive at St Mary MacKillop Reserve, welcome by Senator Mehreen Faruqi
Walkers will be asked to walk single file on the footpath. Please bring own water and snacks. Lunch will be provided.
People will be able to track Neil’s exact location via his website – Walk for Freedom
Walk contacts: Neil Para 0452 533759
Images, Facebook live and facts – Union of Australian Refugees | Facebook
Neil is calling for permanent visas to provide hope and certainty for around 10,000 refugees who have been living in the Australian community for almost 10 years whilst waiting for permanency.
“Please listen to our voices as we ask for freedom, hope and certainty. Please grant us permanent visas so that refugee children such as my children have hope for the future.”
Neil is walking from Ballarat to the Prime Minister’s Sydney electorate, arriving in the second week of September.
Neil and his wife Sugaa and their two daughters Nivash and Kartie came to Australia seeking safety 11 years ago. For over 9 years the family has lived with no visa, no right to work, without Medicare and no tertiary study rights. (Youngest daughter, Nive, was born in Australia and has citizenship).
The family would love to be able to work and support themselves. Neil was a hairdresser in Sri Lanka and wants to be a police officer in Australia, while Sugaa hopes to become an aged care worker.
Neil and Sugaa do volunteer work in Ballarat to give back to the local community which has supported them. Both have been continuously involved in community committees. Neil is a tireless volunteer for the SES and leads a crew, while Sugaa has volunteered for years in aged care (Ballarat Health Services) and the Ballarat Visitor Information Centre.
Eldest daughter 15-year-old Nivash would dearly love to study medicine at university when she finishes school as she dreams of being a cardiac surgeon, but without a visa she cannot attend university once she turns 18.  Nivash would also love to work part-time as her Australian friends do.
Neil and Sugaa learnt English through their volunteer roles, as their non-resident status precluded them from even attending classes to learn English.
The Federal Government’s Resolution of Status (RoS) visa announcement in February paved the way for permanent visas for 19,000 refugees  (on a temporary protection or safe haven enterprise visa 2013) but Neil is one of thousands of others who missed out.
People can sign the petition here.
*Youngest daughter Nive finally has a Medicare card now as she was born here and is a citizen now but does not have the same equal rights as other Australian children.
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