Refugees find open hearts and homes

By Elizabeth McFarlane
Nanette D'Arcy has been 'welcoming the stranger' for decades. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

Nanette and Brian D’Arcy have been “welcoming the stranger” for decades. The couple led a group that has actively resettled 180 migrant families since the 1970s as a part of the Refugee Resettlement Program at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill.
 
Cardinal Freeman had asked Catholics to open their hearts and homes to the Vietnamese refugees. Nanette had been brought up housing the homeless through a stranger room on the back veranda of her childhood home and felt a natural disposition to respond to the call.
 
“The Vietnamese refugees were very grateful for anybody who would lend a hand and they found it interesting that people would help them even though they were not blood related,” Nanette said.
 
“But that’s been the history of Australia. Even when I was a child, we had a big influx of what we called ‘swaggies’ and they would come to the back door looking for a meal. My dad had a set up in Tenterfield where they could bunk in and be warm, and my Mum would always feed them.”
 
Along with the numerous families who visited and lived in the D’Arcy household, a young man called Vincent Long would “drop by often for Vietnamese food, cooked by the two Catholic Vietnamese families living downstairs”.
 
“Vincent was a rather studious, respectful and shy young man, who we also came to realise had a great sense of humour,” Nanette explained.
 
The D’Arcys continue to open their house to those in need, providing the essentials for life in a new land, and the company and warm kindness that led to them being the proud recipients of the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1992.
 
“The refugee boat-people have worked hard and they give back to society in so many ways. We now have lots of Vietnamese doctors, lawyers, chemists and dentists, whose parents worked long hours to give their children educational advantages,” Nanette explained.
 
“Australia has gained so much, as has my family, and now we have a Vietnamese Bishop of Parramatta. Alleluia!”

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