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Parishes continue to welcome Asylum Seekers and Refugees in 2017

2017 was a year of great welcome and support by Melbourne parishes for asylum seekers and refugees. 

The Welcome the Asylum Seeker Parish Support Program (the Welcome Program) works mainly with parishes in the Archdiocese of Melbourne to support their work with asylum seekers and refugees.  The program focuses on providing practical support to asylum seekers and refugees, but this inevitably leads to advocacy as well.

We held three Parish Forums on Saturday 18 March in East Melbourne, Tuesday 11 July at Moonee Ponds, and the evening of 11 October, 2017, also at East Melbourne, with keynote speakers including Sr Brigid Arthur, Phil Glendenning AM, Paris Aristotle AM and former refugees.

Around 100 people attended the three forums.  The forums update parishioners on the current needs of asylum seekers, and suggest ways in which parishes might help. Parish leaders with first hand experience led excellent practical sessions at the forums.  A Letter Writing session will be held for staff and friends at Cardinal Knox Centre on 5 December 2017, to generate letters to MPs on asylum seeker support issues. 

Associated with the program, a group of leaders from Catholic agencies providing support for asylum seekers and refugees meets regularly to share expert advice and information and discuss areas for action.  The agencies are:-

·                    Brigidine Asylum Seeker Support Program

·                    Cabrini Health Australia

·                    CatholicCare Melbourne

·                    Edmund Rice Community and Refugee Services

·                    Jesuit Social Services

·                    Melbourne Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office

·                    Missionary Sisters of Service

·                    St Vincent de Paul Society, Victoria

·                    St Vincent’s Health, Australia

During 2017 the group authorised letters to the Minister for Immigration and Border Control on standards of supervision applying to detainees, a Submission to the 2017-18 Humanitarian Review Program, a letter to the Minister requesting a further special intake of Syrian refugees to respond to the Syrian crisis, and thanks to the Premier of Victoria for his government’s support for medical transferees, amongst other activities.

We maintain our Asylum Seeker webpage on the Catholic Social Services website. This contains reference information for parishes  - including such items as ‘What can parishes do to assist asylum seekers and refugees?’ – as well as asylum seeker news. We also send quarterly newsletter updates to those who have attended our forums over the past four years, and other contacts. 

We are currently reviewing the Welcome Program to ensure it will continue to meet its objectives in 2018, drawing on the assistance of experienced parishioners and agencies with well established supports for asylum seekers and refugees.

We thank everyone who supported the Welcome Program in 2017, and look forward to working with parishes, asylum seekers and refugees in 2018. 

Any suggestions for how our program can best help parishes support asylum seekers would be most welcome - contact Lucia Brick on lucia.brick@css.org.au

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