SSI News Blog

Dates allocated to celebrate particular causes and communities can sometimes risk ending in token celebrations that are quickly forgotten as we prepare for the next occasion. In Australia, we’ve always endeavoured to ensure that Refugee Week in June is about more than just ‘food, festivals and fashion’, but this year brought a whole new challenge thanks to COVID-19.

 Image of poet at New Beginnings 2019

This time last year, SSI celebrated Refugee Week at the New Beginnings Winter Festival.

Not only has the pandemic changed how we come together to mark this week, it has also changed the refugee community in Australia. While we are all familiar with the broader economic impacts of this virus – job losses, underemployment, businesses folding - many Australians have been insulated from just how far and wide the impact of this virus has permeated within our CALD communities.

The group this pandemic has most put at risk are people who are either still seeking asylum in Australia on bridging visas, or people who have been found to be refugees but have no pathways to permanent residency. Both have little to no access to welfare.

People seeking asylum and temporary migrants tend to be casually employed in industries including cleaning and hospitality. Every day, we’re hearing from people who have lost their jobs because their employer can’t access the JobKeeper scheme on their behalf.

We’re hearing from people who have held jobs for eight years, paid taxes, but suddenly find themselves without access to any safety net when their employment dries up.

In addition to this, the isolation of this quarantine period has meant increased social isolation for a group already at risk of this. It has also affected the educational progress of both children and adults. Not to mention, the pressure that bulk buying and empty supermarket shelves have had on a demographic that tend to live pay cheque to pay cheque.

While a number of state governments have been forthcoming in closing this welfare gap, it is still devastating to see any community left with minimal support. It’s even more so given the theme of Refugee Week is ‘Celebrating the Year of Welcome’.

New joint research from SSI and Western Sydney University demonstrates just how impactful welcoming communities can be on new arrivals.

This joint research, Foundations for Belonging, provides a snapshot of newly arrived refugees in Australia and shines a light on under-researched social and civic dimensions of integration: social bonds, social bridges, social links and rights and responsibilities.

The research examines these dimensions from the perspectives of refugees themselves and their everyday experiences of welcome, participation and belonging in the early stages of settlement.

To launch this research, we are inviting everyone to join a free online panel discussion hosted by Australia at Home, Thursday 18 June, 1pm - 2pm. To secure your place, click the link here. Please ensure you register your attendance to receive the Zoom link to join the event. 

Now more than ever, it’s important to think about how we participate in creating a culture of welcome. You can:

Let’s come together to promote social cohesion and belonging and, above all, to do what we can to make 2020 the year of welcome.

Success stories

SSI Volunteer Spotlight: Sue Vile

Courtesy The Australian: Ethiopian refugee Adi Tefera, left, with volunteer chef Kate Spina at Four Brave WomenSue Vile was among the first to be inducted into the SSI’s Armidale volunteer program, bringing with her a wealth of experience and existing training gathered from her time in aid work, in Australia and abroad.

A retired school teacher and nurse, Sue has dedicated an enormous amount of her time in recent years on the front line of humanitarian services, helping refugees at many stages of their journey to safety.

 

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