The generosity of everyday Australians is significantly improving the experiences of refugees and people seeking asylum living in the Australian community, according to a leader from the humanitarian settlement sector.
Speaking at the start of National Volunteer Week, Settlement Services International (SSI) CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the actions of volunteers had a profound effect on the lives of people fleeing war and persecution.
“Volunteers provide the friendship and practical support that is so important for people adjusting to life in a new country, with different social norms, transport systems and vital services, such as healthcare and education,” she said.
“Volunteers play a crucial role in connecting new arrivals to the Australian community, and their contributions make a real difference to the lives of the people we support.
“Our volunteers are engineers, teachers, painters and more, and their efforts to mentor and support new arrivals helps them to overcome feelings of isolation and develop a positive sense of community in Australia.”
Ms Roumeliotis applauded the efforts of volunteers as part of National Volunteer Week, and said their continued support helped to empower vulnerable individuals to realise their full potential in Australia.
“National Volunteer Week provides a unique opportunity for us to reflect on the efforts of our volunteers and their valuable contributions to support our clients,” she said.
Figures* show more than six million Australians volunteer each year. The face of volunteering, however, is changing, with more people using volunteering to gain work experience in areas including client support and administration.
Many of SSI’s volunteers come from migrant backgrounds and a large proportion are refugees, whose qualifications are not always recognised in the Australian labour market.
Volunteering is one way for new arrivals to gain local work experience, while sharing their knowledge with more recently arrived refugees.
National Volunteer Week 2016 runs from May 9–15 and celebrates the contributions of volunteers across Australia.
* Source: ABS Voluntary Work, Australia, 2010
SSI Communications Assistant Hannah Gartrell 0488 680 287 or 02 8799 6740
SSI Communications Coordinator Louise Wallace 0488 680 255 or 02 8799 6741