The Inner West community of Sydney extended a warm welcome to newly arrived refugees at the Refugee Welcome Centre in Callan Park this week.
Refugees supported by SSI’s Humanitarian Support Services program visited the centre on Monday to enjoy morning tea with locals, church groups and members of the Inner West Council.
For some of the refugees, this was their first visit to the centre, which the Inner West Council established as a welcome hub providing services and activities for newly arrived refugees.
Young members of the local Indigenous community performed a traditional dance, and elders offered a formal welcome to their land before conducting a smoking ceremony. The ceremony is an ancient custom where smoke from native plants is used to cleanse participants and ward off bad spirits.
The group then explored the centre and its spectacular setting within the heritage listed Callan Park site, which is a former hospital that sits along the foreshore of Sydney’s picturesque Iron Cove.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the event marked a formalising of the partnership between the Inner West Council, and SSI and the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, both of which would make use of the Refugee Welcome Centre’s facilities.
"It is encouraging to see how enthusiastically the inner west community has embraced the idea of hosting a welcome hub for some of our newest and most vulnerable community members," she said.
"The Council has done a magnificent job of renovating these premises to create a warm and inviting space for activities that will complement the work SSI does to help refugees successfully settle in Australia.
"Monday's event helped newly arrived refugees to familiarise themselves with the Refugee Welcome Centre. Plans are already under way for more SSI clients to make use of these facilities, including during a school holiday activity for young refugees in April."