Posted by Gordon Cheyne on Jul 31, 2018
John Millington of Nhill Rotary Club waa  our guest speaker on 31stJuly. Thirty-two years in Rotary, Club President twice and once an Assistant Governor, John was General Manager of Luv-a-Duck in Nhill before he retired a few years ago. The company was producing 100,000 ducks weekly, and were using 457 visas to obtain suitable workers. John told the story of how 160 Karen refugees have been relocated to Nhill, and over 100 of these are now in full-time employment. 
The Karen province in southern Myanmar is near the Thai border, and the mainly Christian population sided with the British during the Second World War. Other Burmese groups sided with the Japanese, and reprisals against the Karen have continued since then. Many have fled across the border to Thailand, where there are currently 43,000 refugees in the main camp. 
John Millington heard of two refugee families in Werribeee, and attended a meeting to find out more. A PowerPoint presentation about Luv-a-Duck was enthusiastically viewed by 120 refugees, some of whom were invited too Nhill to meet the local community. Five refugees started work in 2010, and they were accommodated in the former Doctor’s residence. This building has become the base for the current Karen community. 
Now in 2018, the Karen people are part on the Nhill scene: fifty work for Luv-a-Duck and fifty for other companies: the 24thKaren family has bought a house. Others have started businesses, such as the Paw Po Company which sells sewing products, a flower shop and an Asian food shop. 
The Karen are keen to become involved in community activities, to thank and give back to the Nhill people. They have demonstrated this in their New Year and Water Festivals, and by joining in the Anzac Parade.
Local people are happy to see an increase in population, a reliable work force, more volunteers, and improving infrastructure. On the other hand, the Karen people have found hope, happiness, peace and freedom. 
It is hard to imagine a better win-win project. 
Photos:  John and Margaret Millington
Paw Po Weaving