Hawthorn, Victoria Australia (PressExposure) November 02, 2006 -- A father's joyous reunion with his young daughter after years of separation has been hailed as a wonderful example of the human face of Australia's humanitarian programme.
"Scenes like this morning's make you proud to live in a country that welcomes with open arms so many thousands of people displaced by war," Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Amanda Vanstone said today.
At Melbourne Airport this morning, Maulidi Mukasa held his eight-year-old daughter Neema for the first time in six years, upon her early-morning arrival from Africa.
Mr Mukasa and five of his children, including Neema's twin sister, had fled their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2000 for the relative safety of Tanzania.
In 2005 they were accepted as refugees under Australia's humanitarian programme, and the family arrived in Shepparton, Victoria, a few days before Christmas last year.
However, Neema had been ill and in the care of relatives 60 kilometres away from home when they fled, and was not with them. Neema's mother died in the Congo.
"Stories such as the Mukasa family's flight from the civil war of their homeland are sadly all too common, but it warms the heart when we can play a part in bringing loved ones back together," Senator Vanstone said.
Senator Vanstone also praised the role of the principal of St Brendan's Primary School in Shepparton, Mrs Julie Cobbledick, in finding Neema.
"After hearing that Neema was missing but that her father had never given up hope of seeing her again, Mrs Cobbledick set about trying to find her.
"With the help of the Red Cross Tracing Service, she finally did so."
At Mr Mukasa's request, Mrs Cobbledick and her husband flew to Nairobi, Kenya, to care for Neema on the long flight to Melbourne.
In 2005-2006 the Democratic Republic of Congo was one of the top ten countries of birth (eighth) for entrants under the off-shore component of Australia's humanitarian programme.
"Australia has a proven reputation - second to none - for accepting and successfully settling the victims of war and people in humanitarian need who have been forced to flee their homeland," Senator Vanstone said.