News from AMES Australia
UN rep briefs AMES staff of global trends
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Representative for Australia and the Pacific Thomas Albrecht last week visited AMES Australia to conduct community consultations and brief AMES staff of developments in the global refugee crisis.
Thomas told the briefing that the recently finalised Global Compact on Migration held out hope for truly international solutions to the current crisis
He said that Australia’s long and commendable work in refugee resettlement, and the expertise of its settlement agencies could make it a leader in forging a regional agreement about refugee protection.
And he hailed civic leadership in places like Nhill, in western Victoria, and Toowoomba, in Queensland, towns which have settled hundreds of refugees in recent years, as great examples of how communities can make a difference in the absence of national leadership.
He told the conference that Australia was one of just 35 countries that welcome refugees permanently under the UNHCR program.
But he said the number of resettlement opportunities has decreased over the past year.
“Currently there are 1.2 million people in urgent need of resettlement. The number of resettlement places reached a 20 year high of 120,000 in 2016. Since then that has reversed with just 75,000 this year,” Thomas said.
“So ninety per cent of those in need of resettlement will have no opportunity to do so. That’s 90 per cent of the most vulnerable people in the world.
“This means the UNHCR is facing the ever growing challenge of finding resettlement places for all who need them,” Thomas said.
He said the world could learn from things like Uganda’s innovative approach to protecting refugees.
“What did the Ugandan government do when 8000 South Sudanese refugees started streaming across its borders last year? It gave these families plots of land to build shelters and grow food,” Thomas said.
New garden established by refugees at Werribee
A group of South Sudanese refugees is the latest to establish a vegetable garden at Werribee Park under the ‘Working Beyond the Boundaries’ project, a partnership between Parks Victoria and AMES Australia.
Starting with a group of Karen refugees from Burma in 2012, the project has seen local refugee communities come to volunteer in the gardens and learn skills while making broader connections into the local community.
The new community garden area was marked out last week and the first sods turned.
South Sudanese community leader Teresa Grace Lacca said that about 15 people were regularly coming to volunteer in the garden and it was hoped more would join.
“We particularly want to get more young people along to enjoy working in the garden and to give them some direction and positive experiences,” she said.
The group plans to grow traditional foods including sorghum, okra, fava beans and white corn.
Werribee Park Chief Ranger James Brincat said the community groups already using the gardens had welcomed the South Sudanese.
“We invite members of communities who are striving to adjust to a new country to join the program so that as well as garden they can learn new skills, develop social networks and gain an understanding of a new culture,” James said.
“The program has helped many people overcome health or social issues and it can offer a pathway to meaningful employment,” he said.
AMES Australia volunteer honored with community award
AMES Australia volunteer Amyn Zariwala has won a Deakin Community Award for his work in mentoring newly arrived professional migrants.
Amyn, an IT professional originally from India, has been a volunteer mentor with the AMES Australia Professional Mentor Program since October 2015.
Over the past three years, Amyn has supported seven skilled migrants from India, Egypt, Pakistan and Singapore in their search for professional employment befitting their skills and experience in the challenging environment that is the Australian job arket.
Amyn was nominated for the award by AMES Australia Professional Mentor Program Coordinator Sarah Hilton.
Sarah said that as a skilled migrant himself, Amyn has an innate understanding of the difficulties and cultural differences facing the people he works with in this program, assisting them to set and pursue their employment goals and implement strategies to achieve these.
“Amyn’s commitment to mentoring and the great success his mentees have had in obtaining suitable roles in the IT sector – their first jobs in Australia – are a testament to his goodwill and professionalism. He is a great communicator, open-minded, generous with his time and has a knack of instilling confidence in his mentees by showing that he has confidence in their abilities,” Sarah said.
“He is clearly devoted to helping others, is warm-hearted and genuine in his approach to this.
“Amyn has also offered to run some group presentations for our skilled jobseekers here at AMES Australia, something we will work towards organising in the second half of this year,” she said.
One of Amyn’s mentees, Mohamed, recently gained a job as a Linux System Administrator and thanked Amyn.
“Thanks Amyn, for being such a great supporter of skilled migrants and thanks to Deakin Community Awards for the opportunity to recognise Amyn’s work in this and the many other programs and community activities he supports,” Mohamed said.
Amyn said he was humbled by the award.
“It will be an honour for me to share this achievement with all the loved ones and the people who have trusted me and made me worthy of this award,” he said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist