by Judy Lynch and Guy Power
We have been members of BMRSG for close to 10 years. Over this time, most of our involvement has been with the Community Visitor program. So far, we have made friends with and supported 9 households of refugees living in Western Sydney.
The first house Guy visited was a group of 4 young Tamil men living in Granville. They had arrived by boat after spending time in refugee camps in India. It was a steep learning curve, trying to make sense of the labyrinthine world of visas and immigration. I wanted to do what I could to make life a little easier for these young fellows. They were the same age as our children, but their circumstances were so very different. One of our first outings was to Bunnings (who doesn’t love a trip to Bunnings?) to buy a mop and bucket – some essentials they didn’t have. The men were interested in gardening, so local friends donated pots, potting mix, plants and the like. These small things helped to make their lives a little easier.
This year, Guy has supported some asylum seekers who have been released from Villawood Detention Centre. They had been in detention for many years. These men were so happy to find freedom, but found life in the community quite daunting. Help was need with finding accommodation, finding work, Centrelink, getting an opal card, opening a bank account – navigating a complex, modern world. And still, some are not sure whether they can stay in Australia. So, our work continues.
It’s always encouraging when circumstances improve for our refugee friends. One particular family comes to mind. We first visited them in Mount Druitt when their eldest daughter had just started high school. She was a hard-working student who was encouraged to do well at school. We’re both retired school teachers, so we could help with homework and assessments. BMRSG provided a quality “slightly used” laptop and mobile phone, and school shoes and uniform were paid for through BMRSG’s back to school program. This young woman is now studying at university. Because they were on a SHEV, the family now eligible for Resolution of Status visas and are on their way to becoming permanent Australian residents. This is thanks to recent changes in Government policy for refugees on SHEV and TPVs.
For other families we visit, the future is not looking so bright. Two families we know (one with 5 children) are still waiting for their visa status to be determined. They live with the trauma of an uncertain future and the possibility of being returned to the country they fled. So we do what we can to make their lives a little better – BMRSG provides rent assistance, we liaise with Centrelink and MPs when their Medicare is not renewed, we put them in touch with other charities that provide food banks. But we also sit and chat and share stories, as all good friends do.
Learn more about donating to refugees in Australia here.