On Thursday 16 November, 90 people gathered with the Deputy Premier John Barilaro to celebrate the impact of free TAFE for people seeking asylum and refugees.
The fee-free initiative was the result of campaigning by the Sydney Alliance, as well as advocacy by refugee sector organisations, gathered together as the Asylum Seeker Interagency.
At the celebration, Deputy Premier John Barilaro congratulated the Alliance and its leaders for their persuasive campaign. After hearing the stories of newcomers from Iran, Syria and Pakistan who had studied at TAFE for free this year, Deputy Premier Barilaro was visibly moved, describing himself as “lost for words.”
The celebration showcased the involvement of a diverse range of organisations. Parishioner from Our Lady of Lourdes Seven Hills, Adrian Walker was part of the campaign team that drove the research and action to secure this policy change. He joined other leaders from diverse faith backgrounds and the community sector.
This campaign is part of a broader initiative to change the conversation about people seeking asylum, by supporting newcomers to share their stories of seeking safety in Australia through “table talk” events in faith communities, schools, community organisations and unions.
Parishes at Lalor Park, Kenthurst, Guildford and North Rocks have hosted table talks. 50 people gathered on the 12 November at Christ the King Catholic Parish, North Rocks, to hear Hazara and Syrian refugees share their stories, and meet members of the Rohingya community. Stories of struggle and hope that call communities to act.
Previously table talks had advocated for Opal card travel concession on public transport for people seeking asylum. This had made a concrete practical change in people being able to access centres such and the House of Welcome at Granville and Arrupe place at Parramatta.
At the celebration, Deputy Premier Barilaro admitted that “the narrative around asylum seekers and refugees has spoilt our story. We are a rich country for everyone who comes here and we are richer for it.”
The Diocese of Parramatta now looks forward to further initiatives to improve the lives of those seeking protection in Sydney.