Michael Martinez from Geelong's Diversitat talks about the children's fable of the Poppykettle and links it with the story of refugees coming to Geelong.
Michael Martinez: Poppykettle story proud reminder of compassion
December 3, 2015 12:09pm
The Poppykettle Playground on the waterfront
is a timely reminder of this city’s long history of helping strangers to our
WITH the arrival of December and the increasing appearance of decorations,
I took a moment to stop and think about what Christmas means for me.
It is time spent with friends and family, supporting those less fortunate
than us and thinking of those who are no longer with us. It is ultimately a
time for peace, compassion and reunification.
With the launch of the floating Christmas tree on the Geelong waterfront,
I recently found myself walking past the old Poppykettle memorial. This is a
story I have strong memories of as a child.
It is a story of people arriving on the shores of Geelong after a long and
dangerous journey, having fled their home country, which had recently been
invaded. I recall in my childhood, this was a story we were immensely proud to
have associated with Geelong, and even held an annual children’s festival in
Although only folklore this story holds extraordinary parallels with the
refugee crisis we see today. Like the Poppykettle, refugees today are seeking
help and protection in a new and strange land. They have travelled long and
dangerous journeys. Geelong can help by opening their arms and hearts in
welcome and protection.
At Diversitat our staff have the honour and privilege of assisting
newly-arrived refugees to settle into the Geelong community. With this also
comes the sadness of stories and experiences recalled of fear and loss.
What resonates at this time of year is the immense sadness of being
separated from loved ones. We regularly hear of stories of families separated
as they flee to safety. Family members who have disappeared when seeking to
assist others. Family members who, due to complex bureaucracy, remain behind in
refugee camps. Family members who remain persecuted and fearful for their
While some have made it safely to our shores, others are left behind.
The Geelong community has a proud history of welcoming and supporting
migrants, who have gone on to contribute much to our region. Our communities
are made up of diverse cultures and people, from the early days of migration
from Europe to those fleeing persecution today.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the “Norlane Hostel” provided temporary home
to thousands of migrants, many of whom took up work at Ford, International
Harvester and Shell. Today this site is home to the Northern Community Hub, a
shared community space for multicultural communities and the location of our
refugee assistance program.
We see many tragic stories in the news around the world and sometimes that
leads to feelings of helplessness, but there is much we can do right here to
help not only recent arrivals but others who are experiencing disadvantage in
During this festive season, I set a challenge to everyone in Geelong to
take a little time to support others in need and to show compassion and
understanding to all. There are a large number of community organisations in
the Geelong region, who provide direct support and services to those in need.
Donate a gift to the Bethany Giving Tree Appeal, which supports families
who are doing it tough this festive season. Volunteer for a particular cause or
check out Volunteering Geelong for opportunities. Or find and support the many
other causes that support others in the region and beyond.
At Diversitat we have launched a Christmas appeal with a focus on
providing advice for family members who have been separated due to war and
persecution. We are delighted to have the support of Deakin University as a
partner. It will dollar match public donations up to $7500.
In the interim you might like to investigate the Poppykettle story for
yourself with a visit to the Poppykettle Playground on the Esplanade.
— Michael Martinez is the chief executive officer of