|5 Oct 2021|
Since the Vietnamese refugees came to Australia in the late 1970s, I have been involved with asylum seekers in one way or another. In 2003 the efforts of a small group of women religious brought the House of Welcome into being. The House of Welcome provides counselling, language classes, food support and accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees. Since then I have worked with the House of Welcome in a variety of ways and Loreto Normanhurst has a strong partnership with them, employing a number of their clients, providing food for the foodbank and raising money for their ongoing support.
In 2017, with the help of the House of Welcome, the Loreto Sisters’ second house in Mt Pleasant Avenue became the residence for a number of asylum seeker families from Malaysia, Sierra Leone and Pakistan. A baby girl was born, little children played in the garden and I became an honorary grandmother doling out advice on solid food for babies, remedies for scraped knees and a listening ear to tragic stories. Now I am regular visitor to these families in their various homes and have added twin baby boys to my list of “grandchildren.”
Unlike Australians and those with Australian citizenship, asylum seekers, who take years to be processed, were deemed ineligible for Job Keeper, Job Seeker or COVID support payments. Consequently, they rely on charities to provide food and rent support and are the group most at risk of homelessness. In the last month I received text messages asking if I could help with groceries – one from a single mother with five children under thirteen all doing online learning. In a belated recognition of their plight the NSW Government has, in recent weeks, given some money to agencies such as Red Cross for distribution to asylum seekers.
In an effort to provide ongoing support for these families, I put out a call to the Normanhurst ex-students for Coles and Woolworths cards. The word went out from Cootamundra to Canberra, Wagga Wagga to Woy Woy; to friends, family and work places. The response was overwhelming. Around $6,000 worth of cards and donations have gone to providing weekly food supplies to 30 Tamil families in lockdown. A tranche of cards was provided for 100 people turning up to a vaccination clinic at the House of Welcome and in recent days the cards are providing food supplies for very needy Sudanese families. But the need doesn’t go away. Asylum seekers and refugees are the last group to find employment, usually in casual and exploitative jobs. One of the men in my families was paid $10 an hour to wash cars, another paid $500 a week for 40 hours of back-breaking work loading trucks – both way below the minimum wage and illegal.
Your generosity was overwhelming and I am so grateful for your very quick response. If there are people who were unaware of my request and would like to help, cards can be sent to me at 1 Lytton St Cammeray 2062. Donations can be made directly to the House of Welcome following this link.
Libby Rogerson IBVM
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