Community divided over refugees moving into aged care facility

Estelle Griepink

A community in Melbourne's northeast is divided over plans to move refugees into empty rooms at an aged care facility.

The message at this morning's protest in Eltham was clear: "locals come first".

"Our elderly care system is for our elderly care people, not for Muslims," said one protestor.

"Eltham's major care centre is not for refugees," echoed another.

The protest in Eltham over a small number of refugees moving into empty aged care facility rooms. Image: 7News
The protest in Eltham over a small number of refugees moving into empty aged care facility rooms. Image: 7News

One protector added: "We don't need a getto like that in Eltham."

Protestor Sandi Pike's 87-year-old mother lives at the aged care facility and is worried about the prospect of Syrian refugees moving in.

"No-one seems to care about the residents and that's what it's all about," Pike told 7News.

Protestor Sandi Pike and her mother, who lives at the facility. Image: 7News
Protestor Sandi Pike and her mother, who lives at the facility. Image: 7News

However, just a few suburbs away, another very different gathering was taking place.

"We had about 110 people here. We formed the shape of the word 'welcome'," said Gillian Essex of the Welcome to Eltham Group.

Supporters of refugees moving into the facility spell out the word 'welcome'. Image: 7News
Supporters of refugees moving into the facility spell out the word 'welcome'. Image: 7News

"There is a very large group of people, including some people who are living in that [aged care] facility, who are really looking forward to these people coming," Essex said.

Nina Kelabora from the Welcome to Eltham Group said: "We have put together a book of welcome messages from the community. We have had close to 700 welcome message sent into that book in six weeks."

The welcome book, which has received 700 messages in six weeks. Image: 7News
The welcome book, which has received 700 messages in six weeks. Image: 7News

While most of the buildings at the aged care centre are occupied, there are a number of vacant units and those could be used to house more than 100 Syrian refugees.

Despite this, protestor Gary Hughes said: "They can build a unit for them somewhere else, not an aged care facility."

Protestors gathered in Eltham in Melbourne to make their point. Image: 7News
Protestors gathered in Eltham in Melbourne to make their point. Image: 7News