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A sorely needed material welcome for refugees

28 May 20150 comments

welcome logoFor the last two years The Welcome Group have been working tirelessly to supply much needed material aid to refugees in Victoria.

The completely volunteer run group rely on donated time and materials to provide newly arrived refugees with the essentials for starting a home in Australia.

So far they’ve supported over two thousand families with everything from beds, fridges and cutlery to clothing and toys.

Goods are sourced by the organisation through the generosity of people across Melbourne and then delivered to houses all the way from Melton to Mornington.

While some material aid is provided through refugee case management organisations, a large gap in services meant that some of the most in need weren’t being supported.

Penny Daly, Founder and President of The Welcome Group, became aware of this overlooked area and decided to volunteer her time to remedy the injustice.

“It was through one of my friends Yaser, one of the first Community Guides from AMES, that we made the connection and realised that this was perhaps the biggest need for refugees,” said Penny.

“I heard about people moving into homes and having to sleep on the floor without a blanket in the middle of winter.”

It was after hearing these stories that Penny decided to use her years of expertise from working in the field to create a group that would help.

The Welcome Group have a range of programs set up that support refugees and humanise the refugee debate.

Art, gardening and music programs are aimed at fighting social isolation and supplying an outlet for creativity, as well teaching useful skills.

The ‘Bridging the Gaps’ program in particular is the only one of its kind in terms of size and reach.

“We are the first community based group to be given referrals from the Material Aid team at AMES. We have loved working with AMES to help the case managers to fulfil material aid needs,” said Penny.

Bridging the Gaps supports newly arrived refugees who are on Bridging Visa’s and are particularly vulnerable as they have no right to work and must live in private rentals on 89% or less of a Newstart allowance.

This leaves refugees with very little money to survive and create a home during their first few months in Australia.

While case managers can apply for additional funding for individuals cases there are still gaps that the case management system can’t fill.

“We work with refugee case management organisations and trauma and torture workers to fill service gaps and ensure that the most in need are being supported,” Penny said.

”The only way we know if someone is need is if case managers refer us to them. It takes a toll on case managers, being unable to help refugees create a home due to the gap in government policy.”

The group receives no funding and rely on the hundreds of people that donate their time to help out in a variety of ways. The volunteers collect donations, find storage and transport goods to the homes of refugees.

Penny warrants the group’s success to the simplicity in getting involved.

“Instead of being a keyboard warrior, people that are angry at the current political institution are able to help out in a really easy way.”

Through the ongoing dedication of the group, refugees in Melbourne will have a far warmer welcome to Australia and the tools to create a home.



Ruby Brown
AMES Staff Writer