Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia is opening applications for a new intake of refugee mentor groups! If you're keen to welcome & support newly arrived refugees in your area, you can register to attend an info session and get involved in the growing #communitysponsorship movement.
Dear friends and colleagues,
I hope this message finds you well. What a terrible few weeks it’s been for the people of Afghanistan and their friends, family and supporters around the world. Our organisation is feeling the distress of the situation acutely with our staff and board having deep personal connections in the Afghan community. However, the outpouring of offers of support from ordinary Australians has been incredibly heartening - there are so many good people like you who want to help.
This rather long blog post sets out some detailed information on how you can help through volunteering, donations and other steps including:
Application deadlines for groups planning to be part of the next intake of our Group Mentorship Program which will match local volunteer groups (people like you!) with refugee households arriving in Australia
How to become involved in the next intake of our Group Mentorship Program if you're only just finding out about it
How community organisations like clubs, faith groups, schools and business can be involved
How to help us advocate for the government to introduce a permanent community refugee sponsorship program
As an organisation we’ve decided to respond to the immediate needs of Afghan evacuees arriving in Australia by reorienting the ambitions of our next ‘Group Mentorship Program’ (GMP) intake so that the local mentor groups that we are mobilising can play a role in supporting recent arrivals, especially those without close family in Australia. Under the GMP we plan to mobilise, screen and train 30-50 mentor groups around the country over the next two months and then pair them up with individual refugee households who want and need local support. If we can secure additional resources from government or other sources, we will further scale-up the size of our program to 200 mentor groups in 2021/22.
There are a number of different avenues through which individual refugees and families will be referred into the program, including through front-line agencies currently assisting evacuees, NGOs with links to Afghan refugees arriving in the country and our strong networks in the Afghan Australian community.
Refugees in Australia from places other than Afghanistan can also access the program, noting that our program prioritises recent arrivals in greatest need of extra settlement support. In the longer term, we hope to be able to support the resettlement of future refugee newcomers through a new ‘community sponsorship’ program, something we’re urging the government to introduce in the context of the Afghan crisis and calls for a special intake of Afghan refugees.
How to get involved as an Individual
We are running regular online public information sessions for individuals who are interested in being involved. If you have not already attended one of these, please go to our website to register for one now or watch a recording of a recent session. We ask that at least one member of your group attend an information session (or watch a recorded session) before requesting our Application Form. We also encourage you to read our GMP Information Pack to familiarise yourself with the application process and if you haven't already done so, complete an Expression of Interest form on our website.
If you are part of a group that is already planning to apply - please get your application to us ASAP. The deadline for applications for ‘Wave 1’ groups is Friday 10 September.
Given the high level of interest in our program, and our limited resources, we are planning to mobilise, train and match local mentor groups with refugee households in four distinct ‘waves’ as follows.
What are the requirements for forming a Mentor Group?
You will need to form a group comprising at least five responsible adults who live near you and want to get involved in this program. Its good to have some people who don't have full time jobs in your group - its a great way to do something meaningful with friends or family from different generations. Each member of the group will need to show proof of a valid and up-to-date Working With Children Check/Qld Blue Card and National Police Check (with at least 6 months left until their expiry date). Click here for information on how to apply for police and working with children checks in your state or territory - it’s not hard but there are a few important details that you need to get right.
It may cost you a few dollars to obtain these checks (around $30 depending on which service you use), but they are necessary for us to protect the safety of refugees involved. It can take a little while to get these checks back from the authorities, so we encourage you to apply for them ASAP. While we can't guarantee that we will be able to find a role for absolutely everyone to help, having these checks on hand will mean that we can approve you to help quickly - at worst you may end up wasting a few dollars and a few minutes of time filling in some forms. Plus Working With Children Checks are useful to have for a variety of other volunteering purposes.
Wherever you are in Australia, we would encourage you to apply to be a part of the program
We are particularly keen to hear from groups in South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory as we did not have strong representation from these locations in our pilot program. We really welcome people from across Australia to be involved in this work.
It is not yet clear where current Afghan arrivals will end up settling in Australia. It's fair to say that all concerned are having to make new arrangements very quickly to respond to the needs of evacuees.
Based on what we know, settlement agencies will be assisting new arrivals to find initial housing in the Australian community and many will end up living in cities and regional centres that are already home to communities of Afghan Australians or other multicultural communities. However, local groups based in other parts of Australia can still be involved in our program, noting that:
Not all new arrivals will wish to settle in ‘the usual’ areas in the longer term - for example, some may have jobs with NGOs based in other locations or have connections to other parts of Australia
The government has targets for resettling refugees in ‘regional areas’ (ie outside of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane) and will likely seek to settle Afghan arrivals outside of those cities where possible
It may not be possible for settlement agencies to secure enough housing in traditional settlement locations
Some arrivals may be interested in living in regional areas for personal, work or lifestyle reasons
Furthermore, engaging in our program is a good first step towards one day possibly sponsoring a refugee/family from overseas to come directly to your community (more on this below).
Once you apply to be involved, but before you commit to undertaking our training program, we can give you up-to-date advice on the likelihood of us being able to match your group with a refugee household living in or moving to your area. There may also be opportunities to partner with other local groups around the country as well as future opportunities relevant to your location.
For Community Organisations
How community organisations can be involved
You may be involved in a community-based organisation whose members and constituents are asking ‘How can we help with the Afghanistan crisis?’ Whether you are a club, school, faith organisation or business, partnering with us in the Group Mentorship Program as a ‘Supporting Community Organisation’ is one of the ways that you and you networks can respond.
We are running another information session for community organisations who are interested in finding out on Thursday 9 September and we have a recording of an earlier session available on our website. Please visit the GMP page of our website to register for the next information session or to watch the recording.
Our website also has a toolkit for community organisations wishing to promote this opportunity to their networks. This toolkit can be found here.
Where can people donate goods, services, accommodation or money to support Afghan refugees?
If your business or organisation would like to make a large bulk donation of goods or services to evacuees arriving in Australia from the crisis in Afghanistan, we can help direct this offer to those at the front-line of support. Please fill out this Corporate Donations form and we will share your contact details and information on what you have to offer with settlement agencies working in different parts of Australia and (with your consent) future mentor groups involved in supporting Afghan refugees. It will then be up to those organisations/ groups to contact you directly to discuss details and arrange logistics if they need what you have on offer.
If you're a private individual who would like to offer accommodation, there is a place to record this in our Expression of Interest form. We don't yet know whether accommodation will be needed but, if so, we can pass on these offers to those agencies who are leading in arranging both short-term and long-term accommodation.
We are not equipped to accept or coordinate donations from Australian individuals. We suggest you contact the well-established organisations who regularly receive donated goods in your local area to see what they need - you’ll know who they are.
As for cash donations, there are numerous organisations putting out appeals to support Afghan individuals around the world which we encourage you to consider supporting. If you wish to support the work that our organisation is doing to coordinate community-based support for refugees in Australia, we welcome your tax deductible donation which can be made here.
Other things you can do
In addition to running the Group Mentorship Program, we are continuing to advocate for the introduction of a permanent federal community sponsorship program for refugees, that can expand and improve Australia’s refugee resettlement efforts. Please consider helping us with this endeavour by telling your federal MPs that the Australian community is willing to actively help Afghan and other refugees rebuild their lives in safety in Australia and that the government should fast-track the launch of a new community sponsorship program.
Thank you for making it to the end of an epic blog post! We’re truly grateful for your interest and support for the Afghan community and other refugees around the world at this challenging time.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones.
Lisa and the CRSA team