MORE than 100 migrant and refugees from southern Brisbane suburbs were greeted with blue skies, sunshine and warm smiles for the annual Infant Saviour St Vincent de Paul Society conference beach picnic.
Conference president Dot Farley said the day, in its 14th year, was a huge success.
Burleigh Heads Vincentian Hans Van Mosseveld said the picnic was a collaborative effort with the Refugee and Migration Special Conference in Logan since the first picnic held in 2004.
Jim Howard was then president of the Refugee and Migration Special Conference.
“Our aim basically is to provide the opportunity for these people to join in a typically Australian type of activity, on the beach with a sausage sizzle and picnic,” Mr Van Mosseveld said.
He said the Vincentians also worked closely with the lifesaving movement.
“There are about four or five clubs from the southern part of the Gold Coast here today who have sent their volunteers down as well as their boats and equipment to give these refugees and migrants the opportunity to experience Australian beach culture,” he said.
Mr Van Mosseveld said some of the migrants and refugees came without swimming togs and towels.
“We are grateful that Marymount primary school collects spare swimming togs and towels and these are then distributed free of charge to these people,” he said.
He said once in the water the guests joined lifesavers to learn about their role in keeping people safe on the beach.
“And to make them aware that they are always available to assist them, indeed that there is no cost involved because on some beaches in the world people have to pay,” he said. “That is perhaps a reason why some of our foreign people over here don’t always go and swim between the flags.”
It is the first time Dee Venz and her daughter Lili, a student at Marymount College, have attended the picnic.
Ms Venz had nothing but praise for the annual event and encouraged fellow Catholics to show more compassion and understanding “of people who have had some really traumatic experiences”.
“It gives us a chance to spend time with them, to open our hearts and minds in a hands-on way,” she said.
“We get so much out of this experience and meeting these people enriches our lives.”
It is the second time Thawng Thang and his family, who came from Myanmar, have attended the picnic.
The Logan Central man said it was a good initiative and made him feel more like he and his family “belonged to Australia”.
By Robin Williams.