Being there for asylum seekers

refugee rally

BARRY GITTINS

Uniting Church agencies are calling for help in supporting asylum seekers attempting to make a new life in Australia.

Andi Jones, Uniting Vic.Tas manager of Lentara’s Asylum Seeker Programs in Brunswick, which are not government funded, says asylum seekers often have limited means of support.

“Those people we case manage receive $100 per month as a basic living allowance, and $36 per month for myki public transport,” she says.

“We also provide some limited support through our foodbank. We try to provide material aid to our clients, as do our partner agencies.

“Some clients have work rights and some don’t – it’s about a 50/50 split, roughly, in those we case manage. Some are unable to work because of language difficulties and/or mental and physical trauma.”

Lentara supports 60 individuals through accommodation and case management.

It has access to 15 properties across metropolitan Melbourne. There is also a drop-in centre for asylum seekers in Brunswick, which receives about 250 presentations each month.

Asylum seekers in Australia face complex challenges, include coping with the life experiences they have endured in their countries of origin, and language barriers that are partly overcome through limited access to translators.

Uniting Kildonan operates various services to support the approximately 250-300 asylum seekers living in the Victorian town of Shepparton.

“Most of the asylum seekers come to us for support with their legal applications for protection, emergency relief, housing support,” Uniting Kildonan’s programs manager of resilient communities Sara Noori said.

“Case managers refer them to the right services and support them with making appointments and filling out any forms they may need assistance with.

“Community organisations in Shepparton have an open door policy to support asylum seekers, particularly the Goulburn Valley Community Centre food pantry.”

“Physical and mental trauma among our clients is quite significant; we refer them to torture trauma counselling services available locally.”

Sara appealed to employers to consider hiring asylum seekers with work rights. “They come with amazing strengths and skills,” she said.

“They are hard-working, committed and incredibly resilient; they have escaped situations that we cannot even imagine.

“Many of them are qualified builders and plumbers, and many of those who are working in Australian communities are the bosses’ favourite employees.”

Andi and Sara are looking for volunteers and donations. “If people are unable to support these people financially, then their support as volunteers would be invaluable,” Andi says.

Find out more about volunteering at: https://www.vt.uniting.org/get-involved/volunteers/. For donations and gifts, call 1800 668 426 or email fundraising@vt.uniting.org

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