CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains is working with the newly formed charity, Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA): www.refugeesponsorship.org.au to assess how parish communities can support refugees in settling into Australia.
Following a successful trial, CRSA are expanding their Group Mentorship Program, which CatholicCare is supporting in our Diocese.
Last year, with Australia’s refugee resettlement program largely paused due to the pandemic, CRSA implemented a pilot program that screened and trained local groups of volunteers to provide practical support to refugees already in Australia, and then worked to pair-up those groups with refugees living in their community and in need of additional support. We called this the ‘Group Mentorship Program’. The idea was to test and demonstrate the viability of some key features of a future community sponsorship program as well as develop the tools that will be required to see such a program run successfully in the future.
The program has been a great success, with so many groups around the country eagerly taking up the opportunity to help trailblaze a new way of supporting refugee newcomers to the benefit of an inspiring group of mentees.
How parishes can be involved in the Group Mentorship Program
- Step 1: Sign up to attend an information session over Zoom on 22 July, Monday 2 August, or Thursday 26 August. Register to attend one of these sessions here. Clergy and any interested parishioners are all welcome to attend to get information about the program.
- Step 2: Register a group of at least 5 community members from your Church (non-parishioners welcome). Members will need a National Criminal History Check (AFP Check) and Working With Children Check. Applications open 30 August.
- Step 3: Groups across the Diocese who have registered as a group will receive training between September and December.
Following training, groups are encouraged to research their local community through the eyes of a refugee newcomer to find out what the local opportunities, resources and challenges are likely to be (for example, investigate housing, employment, education, English language classes and cultural opportunities). Groups will also consider how they can welcome people as part of the community through social activities, events and informal ways of showing care.
- Step 4: Groups are matched with a refugee individual or family (subject to identifying a suitable individual/family living nearby or moving into the community) They may or may not be from a faith background.
- Step 5: Groups support their individual/family as a community with ongoing check-ins and support from CatholicCare
For more information, please contact Celia Vagg on 0433 628 438. Celia Vagg is Manager, Community Engagement at CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
This article highlights a story from the “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection”. Learn more about this initiative and follow our 14-week campaign from Refugee Week to World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Editor’s note: Since publication, the dates of the information sessions have been updated.