Meewon makes a difference to the lives of asylum seekers and refugees  

Meewon makes a difference to the lives of asylum seekers and refugees  
Brendan Rees

North Melbourne’s Reverend Meewon Yang has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to Baptist Churches of Australia, and to refugee support services.

Rev. Yang, who serves as a multicultural consultant overseeing multicultural ministry within the Baptist churches in Victoria, has been a strong advocate for asylum seekers and refugees, while also working tirelessly to promote diversity and inclusivity in her community.

Born in South Korea before arriving in Australia in 1989, Rev. Yang said it was her study of theology at Whitley College in Parkville that drew her to “God’s compassion and justice for the most vulnerable in our society”. 

Later, she co-taught a unit at the college titled “Asylum Seekers and Refugees”, which influences other leaders to also advocate for people in these communities. 

“Australia has huge resources, and we can give refugees a new chance at life by involving them and by voicing their concerns and this gives hope for us all,” Rev. Yang said. “I also believe that as we give voice to our indigenous peoples we will grow as a nation welcoming refugees and migrants, and we will become stronger together.”

She said being recognised for her services with an OAM as part of the 2023 King’s Birthday honours list was a humbling experience, and something that came as a surprise.

“I am an ordinary migrant and a relatively new citizen of Australia and am very honoured. I want to acknowledge and appreciate the many people who have supported my journey," she said.

“I want to acknowledge and appreciate the many people who have supported my journey.”

One of Rev. Yang’s first opportunities to help refugees was as a local minister at Brunswick Baptist Church, starting the Somali Women’s Sewing Group, which is still running today as the Multicultural Womens’ Sewing Group.

She also set up housing for asylum seekers in the church house next door, which continued for many years and then evolved into the Sanctuary project, now run by Baptcare.

Rev. Yang said she was grateful to have been employed by the Baptist Union of Victoria nearly 25 years ago to advocate for the wider refugee community and asylum seekers.  

Her passion for these communities has continued to grow, and she has developed various initiatives including the refugee airfare and car loans scheme that offers interest free loans, as well as working as a member of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce. 

Rev. Yang said was grateful for the opportunities she’s had to work with people from different cultures while promoting social harmony, which recently included hosting an ecumenical and interfaith prayer service for the people of Myanmar, as the country’s civil war has resulted in a human rights crisis and 1.3 million people being displaced.

The service, which was attended by hundreds of people, will “help give these communities a sense of support and hope”, Rev. Yang said. •

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