Social justice groups across Sydney have welcomed the NSW Government’s commitment to support multicultural communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday 3 June, Geoff Lee, Acting NSW Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans, announced that $6 million will be provided to communities including migrants and temporary visa holders.
“The NSW Government is determined to ensure we support our most vulnerable by providing funding for essentials like food and medicine,” Mr Lee said.
“Temporary visa holders, including refugees and asylum seekers, have become increasingly vulnerable during COVID-19 and they don’t qualify for any of the support packages announced by the Commonwealth Government.”
Reacting to the NSW Government’s announcement, Sydney Alliance, a coalition of community organisations, religious organisations, unions and schools said in a press release that the NSW Government is listening to the urgent need on the ground.
“Since the beginning of this crisis we have been saying that there is a hole in our safety net, and vulnerable newcomers are falling through the gaps,” Sydney Alliance organiser Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis said.
“We thank the Berejiklian Government for acknowledging its responsibility and duty of care to vulnerable migrants in our state who live, work and study amongst us,” she said.
In April, the Sydney Alliance contacted NSW members of parliament with first-hand stories of people in crisis who had been left behind during COVID-19 due to their visa status.
Patrice Moriarty, Social Justice Coordinator, Diocese of Parramatta, said, “we welcome this leadership shown by the NSW state government. We, as citizens, but also our governments have an obligation to all people who are in our community.
“This is an economic emergency for many people in our diocese and we as fellow brothers and sisters in God’s family must support people in need, welcome the stranger and be hospitable to all new migrants and visitors,” she said.
In a statement, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) Australia Director, Carolina Gottardo, said the “announcement from Minister Lee is a significant development for people seeking protection who have lost jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, have no access to any Federal Government support, and cannot return home because they fled persecution.
“The Berejiklian Government has shown real leadership in ensuring that women, children, and men who for so long have lived, worked, studied, prayed, and paid taxes in Australia are not left behind in their hour of need,” she said.
Statistics from Jesuit Refugee Services Australia show that they have seen a 224% increase in demand for their services between the first and second quarters of the year, and since 1 April, they have delivered food parcels to almost 3,800 people with the support of schools, parishes, religious congregations, businesses, and community partners.
Parishioners from the social justice group at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie, say they are also grateful for the NSW government’s response, but also call for the highlighting of the issues these people face.
“We are delighted that the NSW government has provided some support [in] giving refugees and asylum seekers and the charities supporting them some relief and ongoing encouragement,” Joan Wharton from the Altera group told Catholic Outlook.
“Members of Altera [meaning ‘the other’ in Latin] lobbied various state MPs with regard to the need for financial support for refugees and asylum seekers who were neglected in the federal government’s previous support packages.
“One of the members of Altera was once a refugee herself, and is in touch with several families, so she knows the needs and challenges they face.
“Parishioners at St Anthony’s have been extremely generous and have enabled us to send their donations to JRS each week with [a parishioner], a volunteer driver and distributor. Parishioners readily support Vinnies and are happy to extend their support to refugees and asylum seekers.
“While we are very grateful to the state government for its support, we also see part of our work as letting neighbours, friends and associates know about the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in our western suburbs. This given them the opportunity to contribute in a practical, meaningful way as well,” Joan said.
Two charities based in the Diocese of Parramatta are providing assistance to refugees and asylum seekers across Sydney.
To donate, please visit Jesuit Refugee Services: https://www.jrs.org.au/donate-now/ or House of Welcome: https://www.stfrancis.org.au/house-of-welcome/make-donation-house-welcome
If you are more interested in learning more about how you can help, please contact Patrice Moriarty on firstname.lastname@example.org.