Supporting our new arrivals
Local community groups now have a chance to offer support and friendship to refugees arriving in Australia through a program backed by government and run through Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA).
Groups are being set up around the country through the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot. At present there are around 15 in metropolitan Melbourne that are either already formed or are going through the process.
There are strict guidelines and protocols ensuring that groups provide appropriate care and maintain respect for the rights and dignity of those they support. Training is mandatory, and there is a requirement that at least five community members are committed to support a refugee family for one year after their arrival in this country.
Accommodation, both short- and long-term, medical care, and employment and education for both children and adults are among the responsibilities of welcoming groups, as well as provision of basic necessities such as food and clothing on their arrival.
Groups need to fundraise a sufficient amount to demonstrate that they have the financial means to support a family for 12 months. Fundraising is a good way to initiate groups working together and getting to know each other in a meaningful way prior to the next phase of welcoming a family and offering active support.
Families are selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the basis of need, and are matched with local groups. The countries from which they are likely to arrive include, amongst others, Iran, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria Ecuador and Ethiopia.
Requests for financial aid made by philanthropic agencies bombard us almost every day through the mail, email, and television, but this program gives us the opportunity to help at the grass-roots level. It has been demonstrated that refugees who receive a high level of support on their arrival are more likely to adjust more quickly and easily as they settle into a new and productive life.
Some groups are ready-made from existing friendship groups and networks. Others are brought together through CRSA or by word of mouth. The basic requirements are time, energy and a real commitment to helping others.
The program gives us an opportunity to share our knowledge and skills to enable refugees to participate fully in Australian society while at the same time allowing group members to develop experience and knowledge within a cohesive group setting. •
More information is available through refugeesponsorship.org.au/what-we-do/crisp