Unitarians for refugees (of South Australia) was formed in November 2001 along similar lines to the Christchurch Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s response to the needs of refugees in New Zealand. As in Christchurch, we recognised a similar need in Adelaide to form a social action group within our Church to support the varied needs of asylum seekers arriving in our country. After initial contact with Afghani refugee with good English speaking skills we soon found a wider need including TPV (Temporary Protection Visa) refugees from Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
We learned there were three priorities:
- To learn English.
- To find employment.
- To attain permanent visa status.
Our initial response was to conduct three hourly English classes at the church every Saturday. Over the two years, 89 consecutive lessons were held. Lessons were constructed and coordinated by our English as a second language (ESL) teacher. Also weekly lessons were held in the homes of some of the students who were unable to attend Saturday lessons due to work commitments, or the size of their family. We also held monthly potluck dinners and arranged for guest speakers such as government ministers, lawyers, migration agents and various support group representatives, to speak to us about current issues. The activities of the group have been reported in our monthly newsletter, as follows:
For the year 2004 we decided to re-evaluate our program with a view to the future needs of our refugee friends. After careful assessment of a Needs Based Questionnaire sent in January to all students and tutors, we have decided to continue our educational and personal support for our refugee friends by arranging lessons in tutors and students homes. This seems most appropriate at this time, as so many of our refugees friends are both working and studying this year. Our tutor base remains strong but we are always happy to integrate new helper/tutors into our program.
We remain committed to our three original priorities and recognise the needs of our refugee friends to be integrated into our Australian social life through picnics and social get-togethers etc. This program continues to offer all involved a full measure of enjoyment and personal satisfaction as we spend time in the company of our very appreciative students, who are facing, at the present time, crucial decisions about their personal futures.
A party was held at the last potluck for the boys who are returning to Afghanistan. It was a celebration of what we have come to mean to each other. All the boys are feeling some despair at what is happening. But it was a wonderful party and about 45 people attended. We had lots of food, dancing and fun, and it was certainly what everyone needed. Father O’Kelly and Dianne Campbell from St Ignatius came as well as many people from FAYS. But what made it very special was the fact that Pashtun, Hazara, American and Australian were all dancing together – something they would never do in Afghanistan! Thank you to all who helped to make it a great night.
Unitarians for Refugees would like to thank everyone who responded to our appeal. We raised $800 and that money went directly to the Australian Refugee Association who distributed it to needy families. The next Unitarians for Refugees potluck will be held on Wednesday, 6 October at 7 pm. Please bring a plate to share. It is with great pride that I tell you Ahmad Entazami who is doing the Foundation Course at Flinders University has received 2 credits. This is a wonderful achievement considering he not only has to master a new language but deal with all the uncertainty and with being separated from his family.
Unitarians for Refugees Picnic – Saturday, 8th November. Some 25 people attended the picnic, held in Hazelwood Park. Good conversation, good eating, and various games all added to this enjoyable occasion. Our guests were taught the intricacies of cricket and in turn the hosts were treated to some great soccer skills.
The potluck supper in December will be held on Wednesday, 10th December at 7.00 pm.
We are pleased to discover our former refugee friends, Safa and Ismail, are returning to continue their studies at St Ignatius. This time they’re coming to Australia aboard and airplane – not a leaky boat!