The morning was kicked off by a stirring performance by local country singer-songwriter Brendon Walmsley, who was joined by a choir of students from Centenary Heights State High School. Brendon’s original song about the challenges of living on the land during drought set the tone for a morning that would see the local Toowoomba community dig deep to support the chosen charity.
“I’m very pleased to announce that we raised just under $9000 for the Lifeline Drought Appeal,” said Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio.
For the first time in the event’s history, the morning featured a home-grown guest speaker. But before Ps. Ross Savill from HumeRidge Church of Christ addressed the audience, they heard a very powerful testimony from university student and refugee Aman Mach.
Aman was born in a refugee camp after her parents had fled war-torn Sudan.
“In 2004, my father went back to Southern Sudan to fight for his country,” said Aman. “In 2008, he was killed. I wasn’t able to go to his funeral, and I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
In 2011, Aman’s family was accepted to move to Australia as refugees.
“It was so exciting, it was such a relief,” said Aman. “I cried for the whole day.”
“I met Ross Savill two weeks after coming to Toowoomba. That changed my life, and it’s the reason I’m standing here today.”
Like many other refugees in Toowoomba, Aman has been impacted by Ps. Ross and his heart to reach out, support and settle migrants in our community.
“We have so much to be grateful for, and so much to be proud of,” Ps. Ross told the attentive audience. “Historically speaking, Australia as a nation has had a good record of resettling refugees. In 2012, according to the UN, per head of population, Australia rated second to Canada for settling refugees.”
“I am so pleased and proud of our city leaders, that in 2013, they took the decision to have the Toowoomba region declared a refugee-welcome zone,” he said.
Ps. Ross said there are many good things we should be proud of as a society. But he also challenged those gathered that there are other things that should cause us concern.
“According to the Immigration Department statistics, as of 30th of April 2014, there were 1023 children in Immigration Department detention centres. And 444 of these children are held in off-shore centres,” said Ps. Ross. “Some have been detained for more than 2 years. Some are so young that this is the only world that they know.”
Ps. Ross encouraged listeners not to be so busy and caught up in their own lives, and to pause and take notice of what is happening beyond their own existence.
“Look up, look around, and slow down,” were his final words, followed by the first standing ovation in the event’s history.
DVDs featuring Aman’s testimony and Ps. Ross’ keynote are $16.50. Call Toowoomba City Church to order: 4638 2399.