Partnership at heart of asylum seeker centre

Arrupe Place in Parramatta has been recognised with an award for its innovative work.
Some of the Arrupe Place team at the 2016 Zest Awards. Photo: Ben Williams Photography.

Posted on 22 March 2016

Arrupe Place in Parramatta opened its doors just over a year ago and already this drop-in centre for asylum seekers has been recognised for its innovative work.

At the 2016 Zest Awards in Sydney on 24 February, Arrupe Place received the Exceptional Community Partnership Project in a Local Government Area Award. The awards are led by regional peak body Western Sydney Community Forum and this year included key partners Western Sydney University, TAFE NSW Western Sydney Institute, TRI Community Exchange Inc. and WESTIR Ltd.

Arrupe Place was established by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in collaboration with seven other partners, including the Good Samaritan Sisters. The centre’s Co-ordinator, Maeve Brown, said it been a truly collaborative process and the award recognised the project’s “capacity building, advocacy and leadership”.

“This award is a testament to our exceptional partners whose great support has helped Arrupe Place work.”

Maeve said that Arrupe Place had been established in early 2015 to provide a welcoming space for people seeking asylum and in need of essential services in Western Sydney.

To provide these services JRS partnered with seven other organisations: the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta, the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS), the Australian Red Cross, Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) and Training for Change.

Two other organisations, STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors) and Baker & McKenzie, have also provided free support for asylum seekers.

“We were drawn together with the common goal of providing a safe haven that allows asylum seekers to live with dignity and become self-sufficient whilst waiting for their claims for protection to be assessed,” Maeve said.

“Arrupe Place ensures that accessing support is easier and less stressful for those most in need by housing our many varied services in this one location in Parramatta.”

Currently, Arrupe Place offers a range of services, including English language and cooking classes, a food bank, legal advice and, significantly, according to Maeve, “a sense of community”.

“Asylum seekers can drop in to the cottage provided by the Sisters of Mercy, receive legal advice from RACS, employment support from Training for Change, arts and playgroup programs from ICE, even emergency aid from the Red Cross, as well as a cup of tea and a chat with our JRS caseworkers,” she said.

“Most importantly, asylum seekers visiting Arrupe Place have a place where they feel safe and less isolated, and where they can access programs that have led to increased participation in the local community.”

For Good Samaritan Sr Sarah Puls, a social worker who leads the team of JRS caseworkers, Arrupe Place “is an amazing thing to be involved in” – and that’s due largely to the effective partnerships that have been forged among those working at the centre.

“It’s great to be able to work together. I think it makes the work we do so much more achievable,” Sarah said.

“It’s to be able to help our clients connect with groups in the community that want to support them, that want to engage, that want to see them as valuable contributing members of the community.

“It’s a great thing to be able to connect them with those opportunities.”

Sarah is one of six permanent staff at Arrupe Place whose work is complemented by a team of more than 50 volunteers under the coordination of Charity Sister Margaret Guy.

Among those volunteers are Good Samaritan Sisters Marie O’Connor, Veronica McDougall and Elizabeth Murray, all English teachers, and Good Samaritan Oblate Susan Stubenrauch, who helps to run the foodbank.

In 2015, the staff and volunteers at Arrupe Place assisted more than 1500 people seeking asylum. If you would like to assist asylum seekers and the work of Arrupe Place tel (02) 9098 9336.

This is an edited version of an article which first appeared in the March 2016 edition of The Good Oil.

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