Welcoming the Stranger
'Welcoming the Stranger' Asylum Seeker Support Group
Support and advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers
President: Peter Charles
tel 0400 798 139, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Welcoming the Stranger Project was established at St Dominic’s Parish in late 2013 with the blessing and support of the then Parish Priest Fr Paul Rankin.
Members of our group work as a cohesive team sharing the decision-making responsibilities regarding people seeking asylum and how we can best support them. Our decisions are made while upholding both the privacy of these people and the confidentiality of their circumstances.
As the custodians of donations made by our supporters, we strive to uphold the integrity of spirit by which these donations are made in conjunction with meeting the most urgent needs of those who need our help.
Most commonly, financial support is given through payments for rent, education and living expenses. Other assistance is offered with tangible items such as donated computers and furniture.
The Welcoming the Stranger Project aims to assimilate across cultures while respecting one another’s rights to cultural freedom and religious backgrounds.
Our first ever appeal was launched over the Advent season of 2013. To our delight and with the extraordinary and generous response from the St Dominic’s Parishioners, the local community and St Dominic’s Priory we were able to commit to assisting and housing our first asylum seeker family before Christmas of that year.
Sr Bridget Arthur from the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Resource Project (BASP) introduced our group to a Syrian couple with 2 young boys who were waiting on the Immigration Department’s assessment of their claim for asylum. We were able to provide a modest unit close to the St Dominic’s and the boys were educated at St Dominic’s Primary School. Parishioners flocked to us with furniture, beds, linen, food and even Christmas gifts for the family.
After two and a half years the family was granted permanent residency and became nationalised Australians towards the end of 2019. They are now fully employed, and have purchased their own home and keep in contact with members of the parish.
After this success story, The Welcoming the Stranger Group was able to assist more people seeking asylum in Australia and act as mentors to St Bridget Parish Greythorn in their quest to support an asylum seeker family. The two Parishes joined to host a spectacular Trivia Night at Xavier College raising funds to support a Tamil family from Malaysia also awaiting Immigration Department assessments for their asylum request in Australia.
Since then, with generous donations and gifts during annual parish appeals and at Trivia Nights, St Dominic’s has been able to assist, advise and support many more families and individuals from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
In addition to directly assisting people seeking asylum, we also strive to promote awareness of the difficulties they face in Australia and worldwide via the Leo Clarebrough Lecture at Siena College, promoting the annual peaceful Palm Sunday Social Justice march in the city, occasional articles in the Dominican and the Archdioceses Refugee Families Forum.
A great example of the practical support rendered by St Dominic’s and offered to all asylum seekers who access assistance from the BASP Project is our annual appeal for food, vouchers and items for personal care. At least once every year we request that our parishioners send non-perishable items and vouchers which are then sorted and delivered to the BASP in Port Melbourne by our team. Each and every year since 2014 we have delivered thousands of grocery items and hundreds of dollars in vouchers to the sisters who distribute these goods to vulnerable people seeking asylum here.
More recently and due to the impact of COVID-19 on these marginalised people, the Welcome the Stranger Group has written a letter of advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers in dire need to the Federal Member Hon Josh Frydenberg. If you would like to see this letter please access it below.
With the support of our Parish Priest, Priory and most importantly our incredible St Dominic’s Parish community will hope to continue our important work and we wholeheartedly welcome new members.
Letter to Hon. Josh Frydenberg
St Dominic’s ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ Asylum Seeker Support Group wrote to our local Federal MP, the Hon Josh Frydenberg. The letter drew on our work for some years now with people seeking asylum in Australia. It advocated that asylum seekers in the Australian community who are in hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic be given temporary access to a financial safety net, Medicare, and adequate shelter if they are homeless.
In a letter of 7 April 2023, we asked the then Minister for Home Affairs to bring the refugees and asylum seekers currently in Papua New Guinea and Nauru to Australia while they await permanent resettlement. We argued that current arrangements are inhumane and directly in breach of our responsibility to respect the human dignity of those in our care.
In light of earlier positive moves by the Australian Government to improve our refugee response by providing a pathway to permanency for people in Australian on Temporary Protection Visas, we hope that our advocacy and prayers will help them to continue to improve our national approach to these very vulnerable people.
2022 Annual Fundraising Appeal
With the financial support of parishioners, St Dominic’s 'Welcoming the Stranger' asylum seeker and refugee support group has helped families from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Iran over the last 8 years with accommodation and social support.
Our parish is responding to the needs of vulnerable people who have fled war and/or persecution, inspired by Jesus’ words - “I was hungry and you gave me food,.. I was a stranger and you made me welcome." (Mt:25: 35).
An insight into homelessness
among refugees in Australia
A survey by Jesuit Refugee Service Australia shows that people seeking asylum faced considerable financial hardship and high levels of homelessness during the first 12 months of the pandemic - read more.
Palm Sunday March for Refugees
Our parish was well represented at the 2023 March,
Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
Thanks to all our parishioners who so generously donated food and household items to those people who are supported by the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project. Thanks also to Siena College students and staff whose contribution was warmly received.
It is a particularly challenging time for the many thousands in our community who have no government assistance and are unable to work, and this appeal is a way that we can make a small contribution to this very needy group in our community.
Thanks to all who contributed to our successful fundraising lunch on Sunday 6 November, 2023. The sunshine that day made everything brighter, and all who crowded into our Parish Centre seemed to enjoy the event. Thanks in particular to some of our refugee community who joined us.
Annual Groceries Collection
Our annual collection of groceries and household goods was held in April, with several large car-loads of goods delivered to the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project for use by the families they are supporting. Financial contributions are still welcome.