A collective voice – JRS newsletter February 2018


In this newsletter, JRS celebrates recent actions by individuals, groups and communities to offer vital hope.

Individuals making a difference

How can we make a difference, when there are millions of people displaced worldwide through conflict and persecution, struggling to survive and find a safe haven for their loved ones? How can we help when refugees and people seeking asylum in our own country face destitution as funding support continues to be cut?

The 2018 international JRS #Do1Thing campaign addresses these questions, highlighting the hope that every person can bring.

A single individual is enough for hope to exist. And that individual can be you.” (Pope Francis).

The campaign features volunteers from our own community, Junghee and Marthe.

The campaign was launched on 14 January to mark the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. It features six stories, each highlighting the substantial impact of a single volunteer on the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum in the community. Like Marthe and Junghee, the other volunteers are ordinary people, doing simple things: offering friendship, a cup of tea, or help with recreation or learning.

Children’s letters for justice

JRS has been heartened by the letters recently written by children in our community about the importance of offering support to refugees and people seeking asylum in our country.

The letter pictured left and centre in the photograph was sent by year 6 student Lili Davison of St Michaels Primary in Baulkham Hills to local businesses. Lili advocates for support for JRS’ work to meet “the social, emotional and psychological needs” of asylum seekers and refugees. “I hope,” she says, “that together we can make a difference”. McPhee Kelshaw Solicitors and Conveyancers in Springwood were moved by her plea, and sent a generous donation to JRS. Thank you.

“I as a human believe…”
At the end of 2017, we received a collection of letters (above right) from a Year 7 Religious Education class at St Ignatius Riverview. The students wrote explaining what they had learned about refugees, and encouraged us to keep doing our work.

Read some of their messages:

“Refugees are just like us and have much to offer Australia. They make strong contributions to our country and have fled from their countries to seek peace, not denial and horrible conditions. I as a human believe that refugees should be treated the same and have the same rights as I do.”

“We all know that refugees are all like us and deserve the human rights that we take for granted. The refugees are seeking a better place to live because their homes are not safe enough to live in anymore. They should be treated the same way we are treated. At the end of the day we are all people.”

“We can learn from the experiences they have had and note just how lucky we are that we are to have the simple things such as food, water and a shelter. As Pope Francis says, ‘We should talk with them, not discard them’”.

Thank you to all the boys who shared their thoughts with us, and to their teacher who inspired their thinking. We will share more of their letters later.

Conference highlights the power of sharing lived experience as a refugee

The national Refugee Alternatives Conference on 13-14 February highlighted the leadership and agency of people with lived experience as refugees. JRS Director Carolina Gottardo, right, participated in the opening and closing addresses and engaged in discussions. There were around 64 speakers at the conference, from diverse backgrounds, more than 60% with lived experience as a refugee, and more than 60% women. Together the panellists examined current and potential solutions for refugees in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and internationally.

Carolina said, “Together conference participants worked towards an Australian Plan of Action, examining Australia in the context of global refugee policy and in the Asia Pacific region. I was honoured to be part of such an inspiring conference and to hear firsthand about the initiatives and projects – in Australia, in the Asia-Pacific region and globally – that are being led by refugees and people seeking asylum and are making a difference.”

She highlighted how the conference “has turned upside down the dynamics of power, with refugees and people seeking asylum at centre stage and leading the agenda on the policies that affect their lives. This conference focused on alternatives and solutions.”

Carolina highlighted in her address the importance of avoiding divisive rhetoric on “good” and “bad” refugees, migrants and people seeking asylum.

She addressed the conference on the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees, noting the importance of coordinating local, national, regional and global work and of ensuring that the Global Compacts do more than just addressing high-level issues: “We need to ensure that the compacts have a real impact on the lives of refugees, people seeking asylum and migrants.”

Carolina brought to her participation in the conference her significant experience in advocacy for refugees and people seeking asylum and migrants. She has been National Policy and Research Director of the Refugee Council of Australia, and is currently the co-chair of the executive committee of the End Child Detention Coalition Australia.  She chairs the women’s and girls’ group and is the focal point on the Global Compact on Migration at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network; on the global stage, she has advocacy experience at UN level, and is a member of the UN Women expert group on gender and migration.

Vital support from the community

Many thanks to our supporters, who have made generous financial donations, donated goods to our Foodbank, and organised initiatives across schools, parishes and communities to raise funds for the people JRS serves, and accompanies and for whom we advocate. Your continued support is greatly appreciated, and makes a vital difference.

Our Foodbank distributes staple foods and toiletries every week to the many refugees and people seeking asylum who attend our community centre in Parramatta. To help, contact joanna.brooke@jrs.org.au.
Your donation will bring relief to people facing homelessness and an end to any government support for their living needs. With your help, JRS can offer support through emergency assistance, temporary shelter, a foodbank, professional casework, community activities, employment support, school engagement, legal advice, targeted advocacy, and a project to empower women seeking asylum. Donate to make a difference


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