Toowoomba could soon have largest intake of Yazidi people

Toowoomba Catholic Social Justice Commission executive officer Mark Copland.
Toowoomba Catholic Social Justice Commission executive officer Mark Copland. Bev Lacey

TOOWOOMBA could be the largest intake city of the Yazidi people in Australia.

That's according to Toowoomba Catholic Diocese's Mark Copland, who has worked extensively with refugees in the region.

Dozens of families from the ethno-religious minority in Syria and Iraq have now settled in the region since July, and it only trails Wagga Wagga in terms of numbers.

Dr Copland said Toowoomba was ideal for re-settlement over major cities.

"They've survived a policy of genocide at the hands of ISIS - women have especially been targeted," he said.

"Some of them were business people and I think we will become the biggest resettlement place for Yazidi.

"The positive is we're giving people a second crack at life.

"We're a regional setting, we're not a big city."


Mayor Paul Antonio speaks at the launch of Tourism Darling Downs at Wellcamp airport.
Mayor Paul Antonio. Tom Gillespie


MAYOR Paul Antonio has welcomed the resettlement of Yazidi people to the Toowoomba region, saying they will add to the area's already strong diversity.

"There are significant number of Yazidi people flying in from Sydney to Wellcamp airport," he said.

"We're very fortunate to have some particularly good agencies that really put some good work into it - I want to compliment them.

"It gives their young people and opportunity to contribute to the future of our nation and community."

Cr Antonio, who has long been an advocate for reasonable intakes of refugees and migrants to the region, said many families breathed new life into some of the smaller towns.

"You go out to my home town at Millmerran and it's absolutely amazing," he said.


"We can learn a lot from some of the people coming here."


Raad Khairo and son Ammar, Yazidi refugees in Toowoomba.
Raad Khairo and son Ammar, Yazidi refugees in Toowoomba. Neville Madsen


THE Yazidis are a religious minority whose ancient monotheistic faith has roots in Zoroastrianism and beliefs involving a 12th-century mystic and a peacock angel.

They are neither Muslim nor Christian.

Many Yazidis, who live in and around the region of northwestern Iraq known as Kurdistan, speak Kurdish.

They have long been persecuted and it is estimated the community numbers around 500,000.

Yazidis were targeted by Islamic State and came to the world's attention when they were caught in an ISIS dragnet on Mount Sinjar, Iraq, in 2014.

They faced starvation and dehydration before the US and its allies began dropping aid and conducting air strikes to help Peshmerga fighters on the ground.