Uni Professor and author weighs in on refugee, mosque debate
AN ADJUNCT Professor who wrote a book titled Race and Racism in Australia believes the Sunshine Coast has some work to do if it is to consider itself an inclusive community.
University of the Sunshine Coast Adjunct Professor in social science David Hollinsworth has weighed in on the discussion around mosque applications and refugee resettlement.
The issue raised itself continually over the past 12 months and throughout the current council election campaign. Adj Prof Hollinsworth believed the Coast needed to take a more realistic view of the situation.
"We are a country that's been built on immigration for over 70 years," he said.
"We are a multicultural society."
He pointed out that through history, immigration sources have shifted, and believed as a multicultural community, there was an expectation that citizens should at least be tolerant of creating spaces for other people.
"This part of Australia has less diversity than most of the big, southern cities," Adj Prof Hollinsworth said.
"The reality is people are increasingly going to be moving into these areas with a whole range of skills and capacity to contribute to economic development.
"We need to welcome the injection of new ideas and new people."
He was disappointed that what should be two, separate issues, in mosque applications and refugee intakes had appeared to be lumped together to a degree had made it tougher to foster discussion.
Social media had not helped clarify the issues either in his opinion- he felt much of the focus and fear associated with Islam was "totally and utterly not based on any realistic assessment of the situation".
Adj Prof Hollinsworth reiterated the need for the mosque proposal to be assessed as a planning issue, and any appeals to the application also had to be on planning grounds.
"Council needs to resist the attempts to politicise… to muddy the waters," he said.
THE global refugee crisis has touched all corners of the globe.
Even the Sunshine Coast hasn't been immune to the effects.
A mosque application last year sparked hundreds into action in ugly scenes in Maroochydore, while the potential for the Coast to welcome in refugees has also sparked some debate.
One group who has been outspoken throughout the process and adamant about the need for safety of communities to remain paramount is Sunshine Coast Safe Communities.
Concerned about a number of social safety issues, including alcohol-fuelled violence, the group is strongly opposed to Islam and believe mosque applications, along with other places of worship, should be made to be impact assessable, to enable all to have their say.
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"We don't say that we shouldn't help them (refugees and asylum seekers)," Sunshine Coast Safe Communities' secretary Raewyn Hutchins said.
Mrs Hutchins said there were negative impacts on business when communities became 'unsafe'.
"How do we help them and keep our communities safe?" she asked.
"There is a good way to help people who need help and that's not necessarily bringing them into our country."
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Mrs Hutchins felt there were opportunities to provide support to those affected in their own countries, rather than resettling them in Australia.
She felt that would provide better value for money, describing the 12,000 Syrian refugees set to be resettled in Australia as "incredibly lucky".
When it came to the issue of mosques, Mrs Hutchins said the Constitution defined the preservation of the nation's safety and sovereignty as one of the priorities.
She said the introduction of mosques in communities "really busts a neighbourhood apart".
"We want cohesion, we don't want division," Mrs Hutchins said.
Mrs Hutchins again refused to identify which Sunshine Coast council candidates were receiving direct support from the group.
WHERE DO THEY STAND?
What the Sunshine Coast mayoral candidates think about a refugee welcome zone.
THE current Sunshine Coast Mayor has taken a strong position on the issue of refugees.
He spoke out in favour of welcoming refugees to the region, believing if they had been determined to be refugees or asylum seekers it was beholden on those able to help to do so where they can.
THE Greens' mayoral hopeful was another strong supporter of a refugee welcome zone being established on the Coast.
He said it was part of the Greens' policy and believed it was critical as a caring country to help those in need.
Mr Gibson also said diversity brought economic benefits.
THE former Maroochy Shire Mayor also aligned with two of her opponents in showing support for the push.
A strong advocate for the arts and culture, she noted at a recent election forum that moderation could be key to successful assimilation when helping those in need.
OUTSPOKEN Conondale candidate Ron Green was less committal on the issue of whether or not the Coast should be a refugee welcome zone.
He said he would be guided by his councillors, who would be guided by the community, as to whether he would or wouldn't support the move.