My name is Jessica Hackett. I’m a teacher at Killester College, a Brigidine school in Springvale, Melbourne.
On the 16th January I set off on a walking journey from Melbourne to Canberra to hand deliver a petition to the House of Representatives. The petition, called The Welcome Petition requests a more humane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Russell Broadbent MP, will show his support by presenting the petition to The House. I’m handing the petition to him out the front of Parliament House on the 23rd Feb at 4pm.
It was Saint Brigid who inspired me to do this project. Her philosophy of welcoming everyone, especially the most vulnerable is at the core of it. My journey to Canberra is a symbolic one. Along the way, I will need help and the ways that people help me will demonstrate to the government that we are a friendly and hospitable people and we don’t want to turn people seeking refuge away.
I write this from Wagga Wagga, with less than 250km to go. The support I have received so far has been overwhelming. People have welcomed me into their homes and given me a hearty meal, others take me on a tour of their town. Some organise a welcome BBQ in a central location so anyone else who is interested can join in. One lady in Wangaratta said “You have brought us all together and it’s wonderful to see such positivity in our community, I’m so pleased to be a part of it.”
All these wonderful acts of kindness and welcome have made my heart feel so full. It’s daunting walking around on your own in unfamiliar territory. It’s daunting and this is still my home country! I speak the language and I know the rules. I can only imagine what it would be like for others who have to flee on foot. Deng Thiak Adut, now an Australian Citizen who had to flee his country on foot, had no shoes and barely the clothes on his back. He also didn’t know what kind of welcome he would receive, if any.
I want those people who are on a journey now to feel the way I feel: welcome and loved. It spurs me on and puts a spring in my step. I’ve found that this doesn’t take much, a smile, or an offer to sit down and have a chat. I’m feeling a sense of pride and hope because I know we can do this. This past week has been a strong example of the generosity we have to offer. People have banded together to ask the government to let those 270 men, women and children stay with us on the mainland. I hear more stories of welcome everyday and this is a constant reminder for me to always look for the good because that’s what I’ve done and I’ve found it in abundance!
For more information please visit www.thewelcomepetition.com
There are still a few days to download the petition from the website and post it to my school. I’m trying to have 30,000 signatures to hand over to the government. Have a look at the petition page on the website for more information.
– Jessica, Victoria