Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43)”
– Pope Francis, Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018 [i]
The Australian Government is currently removing basic support payments for a significant number of people seeking asylum. This will have a devastating effect on many vulnerable people in our community.
Changes to the Government’s eligibility criteria for Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) payments mean that over 7,000 people will lose their sole, basic source of income. SRSS payments are provided to people who are actively working to resolve their immigration status, usually people awaiting a decision on their claims for refugee status. Payments are reserved for those without any other income support and amount to only 89% of Newstart entitlements. They are a necessary safety net for highly vulnerable people who otherwise have no way of supporting themselves.
These changes come on top of the recent loss of basic support for a number of people who had been transferred to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment.
New eligibility criteria for SRSS payments mean that a large proportion of people now receiving these payments will soon lose them, should the Government consider they have the ability to work. This means that many people in our community, who may be deemed ‘work-ready’ by a bureaucrat, will be left without any income whether or not they have a job.
As the Jesuit Refugee Service has noted, “The sudden removal of support payments will not assist people in finding work or becoming self-sufficient, but will instead push already vulnerable people into situations of great risk and significant stress and trauma. Charity services… will not be able to assist the additional hundreds to thousands more people in need of support.”
A call to action from our faith
These changes can only have a disruptive impact on our social cohesion. Ultimately, they undermine our national character, which may be judged, as St John Paul II put it, “on the basis of how it treats its weakest members”. Our Catholic community is called to welcome Christ, hidden in the disguise of the ‘strangers’ before us (Matthew 25:35). As such, we are challenged to speak up for all those affected by these changes and make our contribution to shaping a more compassionate welcome from our nation.
As a Catholic community, we can help provide material support to those affected, as well as work together to change the hearts and minds of our policymakers.
CAPSA is ready and available to coordinate efforts across the Catholic community to help those affected by these changes.
The most immediate needs of those affected by this loss of income are housing and employment. If you, your parish or organisation can make housing available, help an affected person pay their rent, or provide employment, we want to hear from you so we can connect you to the most appropriate people.
To offer assistance, contact CAPSA by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We should be proud that many Catholic organisations are already providing much-needed material support. A donation will help people affected access crisis response casework services, specialist employment assistance, temporary shelter, food and basic goods (e.g. sanitary items or school supplies). You can make a donation through one of these frontline Catholic service providers:
- Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia (NSW)
- St Vincent de Paul Society (NSW)
- St Francis Social Services (House of Welcome) (NSW)
- Cabrini Health (VIC)
- The Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project (VIC)
- Mercy Community Services (Romero Centre) (QLD)
- Mercy Works (SA)
Changing hearts and minds
Our Government and its policymakers take their direction from you. If you think these changes are unjust and reflect poorly on all of us, then make your views known and contribute to our national conversation.
To help change the hearts and minds of our politicians and wider community, you can:
- Sign our petition calling on Malcolm Turnbull to reverse these cuts.
- Call or visit your local Federal MP. See Caritas’ guide to engaging your MP for some useful tips.
- Host a Table Talk, Welcome Dinner, or Words That Workworkshop to help change community attitudes and let people know they are welcome.
- Conduct local actions, like ‘Circles of Silence’, to draw attention to this issue. See CAPSA’s Engage Hearts and Minds: Toolkit for Refugee Action for ideas.
- Share your own message on social media to stand for #RoofOverMyHead, #dignitynotdestitution and #changethepolicy.
For more information on the changes to SRSS payments and details on how you can help make a difference, visit:
• https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/takeaction/roof-over-my-head/ or