Media Releases

Youths seeking refuge offered gifts for fun


Les MurrayYoung people seeking asylum in Australia are in need of many essential items but the gift of free sports shoes and boots will provide something vital for all youth – fun. On August 30, 50 young people living in Sydney on bridging visas will get that gift when the Asylum Sneakers campaign promoted by Welcome to Australia and soccer commentator Les Murray hits town.

Leila Druery from the non-profit organisation Welcome to Australia said the campaign idea grew from seeing the affect sport could have. “Asylum Sneakers came about after seeing the incredibly positive impact of sport on young asylum seeker children in detention centres and in the community,” she said. “Sadly, many children’s participation in sport is limited by not being able to afford shoes and sports equipment.”

Settlement Services International (SSI) is a leading not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, asylum seeker assistance, accommodation, foster care and disability support in NSW. The young recipients are all from SSI’s Community Support program.


SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the campaign had resonated with the community. “More than $24,200 has been raised from the community for this campaign, which shows there is a lot of support out there for asylum seekers and particularly the young ones,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“The fact these young people are here on bridging visas means they cannot work and neither can their parents in most cases. They often live on an average of just $32 a day.

“The benefits to young people in such difficult circumstances that come from participating in community activities, like sports, and having fun shouldn’t be overlooked. It can boost confidence, connect youths to community networks and keep them healthy. The shoes and football boots provided by Asylum Sneakers will allow them those opportunities.

Soccer commentator and SBS presenter Les Murray has been an ambassador of the campaign. He said his background as a refugee meant he empathised with asylum seekers in Australia. Soccer had helped his own assimilation into Australian life, Mr Murray said. So providing shoes and boots to help asylum seekers participate in sport was a campaign he personally related to.

“Having been a boy refugee, and a very poor one, I therefore naturally empathise with refugees and asylum seekers,” he said. “I have an understanding of how powerful football can be – it's the most egalitarian of sports, very simple and very cheap to play. In knowing this, I want to help other refugees in their journey, through football. 

“For many young asylum seekers and refugees, football is a source of hope and a way for them to start healing from the traumas of the refugee experience. It helps give them a sense of purpose and belonging, as well as an opportunity to practise English and socialise with other children.”

Thursday August 21, 2014


Media enquiries:

SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491 or 02 8799 6746

SSI Communications Officer, Rekha Sanghi 0422 304 578

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