Warrnambool has opened its doors to refugees this week, giving four families the chance to get away from their city lives.
Host families have welcomed three Sri Lankan and one Iranian family from Melbourne into their homes.
Warrnambool Rural Australians For Refugees member Richard Adams, who spent 10 years in Jordan doing church-based aid development work, has been helping host the refugee families this week.
Mr Adams said one Warrnambool family will host a refugee family, while another local family will take them on day trips to tourist attractions around the south-west or for a meal.
“From our experience, they’ve just enjoyed getting away from the cities,” he said.
“It’s a bit more relaxed down here. You can go to the beach and have a swim.
“The idea of this is to give them a break. We don’t want to focus on the hardships they’ve been through – we want to focus on them having a nice time.”
Fellow host Katherine Stewart said the refugees that have visited Warrnambool since the program began in 2014 all had different stories.
“In past visits it seemed like everyone was on a bridging visa and had no work rights and they were just hanging around in the cities with nothing to do, so that’s why coming down here was really important,” she said.
“But now more people have work rights (and) kids can go to school.”
In past years, Warrnambool has hosted as many of 30 refugees.
On Saturday night, refugees and their host families gathered at Wangoom hall for a dinner to welcome the visitors to the region.
The Warrnambool Rural Australians For Refugees group members have been hosting families since 2014.
Mr Adams said he was still actively involved in helping refugees overseas.
“There’s one group which has Syrian women that are making scarves, and so they’ll send us out some scarves and we’ll sell them here and we’ll send the money back,” he said.
“My daughter took them to the market on Friday night.”