Vic/Tas Uniting for Refugees Network Update: December 2016

Dear Vic/Tas Uniting for Refugees Network members,

This will be our final update for 2016 – we’ve just managed to sneak it in before the end of the year!

I know we often look back at the year of a year and pronounce “gee, it’s been a busy year”, and of course 2016 hasn’t been any different to that annual reflection!  We started the year not knowing what 2016 would bring, and we probably end it thinking much the same about the rapidly-approaching 2017.  What we perhaps have learnt during this year is that through love and care; thoughtfulness and support; courage and guidance; and faith and action we can all survive and perhaps even thrive through most things that have been thrown along our pathways (this perhaps seems to also be an annual reflection in the refugee sector)!

So for the last edition of 2016, please find below some events; some updates; some resources; some actions and some reflections for the Network.

 

Upcoming Events:

Moderator’s Morning Tea: this coming Friday!

Just a reminder that the Moderator’s morning tea with our Network is happening this coming Friday 9th December, from 10am–12pm at the Synod Centre, 130 Little Collins Street, Melbourne!

It’s not too late to RSVP but we need to know by Wednesday 5pm at the very latest for catering purposes (and to ensure that you have a nice, shiny, personalised name badge when you arrive)!  We realise this is a busy time of year, but we’d love as many of you as possible to hear from Sharon of her passion and commitment to supporting you all in the amazing work you do in advocating for people seeking asylum and refugees.

Attached, please find a flyer with full details of the morning tea.

 

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Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees – Sunday 9th April, 2017

It seems so far off yet, but please put this advance diary date for the Palm Sunday Walk in your diaries for 2017!

For those in Melbourne, we’ll be kicking off at the State Library of Victoria at 2pm (with music starting from 1.30pm).   We will be in touch with you in early 2017 to give you further information and encourage you and your congregation to be actively involved!  We’ll also be providing further information about activities that are happening in regional and rural areas in both Victoria and Tasmania.

 

Advocacy Actions and Campaigning Resources:

Update on Regional Processing Cohort Bill (Lifetime Ban Bill)

Thursday 1st December was the last sitting day for the Senate for the year, and it happened without a vote on the Regional Processing Cohort Bill (lifetime bans), and no amendments were tabled.

Senate will sit again 7th February 2017, so we have until then to work on lobbying the cross-bench!  Thank you to everyone who has phoned, written or emailed so far – let’s keep it going over the summer break!

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Syrian Refugees

In September 2015, in the wake of outrage over the drowning of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdî, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia would take in 12,000 extra refugees fleeing conflict in Iraq and Syria, and that it would “move quickly”.   This announcement to offer resettlement to these refugees was applauded by faith groups, refugee advocates, community organisations and many individuals, recognising the devastating crisis happening in Syria.

However, since that time few refugees have actually been resettled in Australia, and there are grave concerns about the length of time taken to process and resettle the refugees from both Syria and Iraq.  At the time of writing, Australia has settled just under one-quarter of the 12,000 refugees from the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts (compared to Canada which has welcomed almost 30,000 in that same time).

We have set-up an online petition to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration, asking that the remainder of the 12,000 people be resettled as soon as possible; expressing our deep concerns at the delay in processing the refugees; and encouraging the Government to do all it can to speed-up the process to bring people here to safety as soon as possible.

The petition can be found here:  http://www.justact.org.au/syrian_refugees

Please help to share this on social media, so that we can get our goal of 1,000 signatures before the end of the year!

 

Network and UCA Updates:

 

Vic/Tas Uniting for Refugees Network Engagement Survey – 2016

As part of the Justice and International Mission (JIM) Unit’s current and upcoming advocacy, campaign and lobbying work on issues of refugees and people seeking asylum, we would love to hear back from our key supporters about a few key aspects of our work.   We would really appreciate it if you could spend a few minutes filling out the attached engagement survey, and return it by Friday 23rdDecember, 2016.

Similarly to our last survey, we will let you know the outcomes from the survey, and will be looking at holding more events in 2017 which bring members of the Network together, in Melbourne, Tasmania and in regional and rural locations.   Some of these events may also be held ecumenically through the Victorian Social Questions Commission of which we are members, and we will forward you information about those as they are being planned.

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“Uniting for the Common Good” and “Act with Justice in Mind” t-shirts

We still have some t-shirts available in the JIM Unit, which can be used to wear to justice events and gatherings that help give us a really awesome visual presence.  Many of these turned up at the Palm Sunday Walk last year here in Melbourne, and it was great to spot them in the crowd as everyone walked past!   We have only a few of the black “Act with Justice in Mind” sizes left, but plenty of the white “Uniting for the Common Good” shirts left.

If you’d like to find out stock availability, please give myself or Robyn a call on 9251 5271 and we’d be happy to talk to you first – you can then use the attached order form to put in your order.

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Global Recognition for Lentara UnitingCare Asylum Seeker Program

This year Lentara UnitingCare Asylum Seeker Program won global recognition with an award for its program that provides employment, training and career pathways for people seeking asylum.

If you’d like to help contribute to their amazing work with people seeking asylum in our community, please do so via their appeal page here: http://www.lentarauc.org.au/campaign/7/asylum-seeker-program

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JIM Unit Supporter’s Survey

Each year the Synod’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) Unit conducts a survey to get feedback from its supporters (that is you!) about what issues you would like the Unit to resource you to take action on in the coming year ahead.

Obviously refugee and people seeking asylum issues are one of the current areas we work on and resource people to be active on, but there are quite a few other areas of work that the Unit works on as well.   We would really appreciate it if you had time to complete this survey and let us know your feedback.   I have attached a version that can be filled in and returned via email; scanned or printed and mailed (and you could bundle it together with the Network’s Engagement Survey that I mentioned earlier as well!)  J

 

Reflections:

Lament and Hope – reflection by Rev. Elenie Poulos

I have attached a copy of a reflection presented by Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, which she preached at a recent Service of Lament and Hope in NSW.   We are thankful to Elenie who has been able to articulate what I think so many of us feel as we continue to be committed to working for change in this space.

 

 End of year practical support for people seeking asylum living in the community:

It’s about the time of year when end-of-year functions are beginning to be planned (even some already even rolled-out), but also that time when people begin thinking about how we can also support people in our local communities who struggle at this time of year.

Twice a year for the last few years, the JIM Unit has facilitated the Synod Office’s (and sometimes congregations’ and schools) support of local UnitingCare agencies who work 1:1 to support clients who are living in the local community while waiting to have their claims for asylum processed.   On most occasions, our UnitingCare agencies are the sole source of support for these clients who have come from countries where they have experienced firsthand the horrors of war, persecution, and/or violence.   They are usually not eligible for any form of income assistance, and sometimes not even for emergency relief services, as many organisations in our community require you to have a health care card to access these programs (which people seeking asylum are not eligible for).   Our agencies then become invaluable to these people, but at times they struggle to find enough resources to provide this much-needed practical support.

 

To assist with this this we’re offering to once again be a coordination/collection point for donations of food, personal care items and general household supplies, which will be distributed to people seeking asylum through our UnitingCare agencies.   While not everyone celebrates Christmas, many different cultures and religions hold celebrations at this time of year, and being able to practice hospitality with family and friends is a very important part of those celebrations.  It’s for this reason that we are asking for food items especially, and not for Christmas gifts for this particular group of clients.

 

The list below gives examples of things that would particularly be helpful, to use as a guide:

Food items:

  • Canned salmon or tuna
  • Coconut milk/cream
  • Dried red lentils
  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Burghul or cracked wheat
  • Sugar
  • Curry paste
  • Milk powder
  • Cooking oil (peanut oil, olive oil)
  • Dried onions/shallots
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Spices (Turmeric, Chilli, Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Coriander, Dried Ginger)
  • Flour – self-raising, plain, rice flour
  • Baby food
  • Biscuits (sweet)
  • Chocolate
  • Fruit juices and iced teas
  • Fruit bars and muesli bars
  • Savoury biscuits (shapes, rice crackers etc.)

 

 

General household supplies:

  • Laundry detergent (top and front loaders)
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Steelo / scrubs / dishcloths
  • Multipurpose cleaning sprays – bench spray; toilet cleaners; JIF; glass cleaner etc.

 

 

Personal care items:

  • Full sized shampoo and conditioners
  • Razors (male and female)
  • Shaving foam
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Nappies (crawler size)
  • Small first-aid kits (basic)

 

Please avoid pasta as this is not so popular.   Other items that come in really handy are gift vouchers from stores – BigW; Woolworths; Coles; Aldi; Target and/or Bunnings.

 

Last year with the support of a UCA School and some UCA members who make up the Vic/Tas Uniting for Refugees Network, we were able to forward a lot of items to our agencies, and we’d love to do similar this year (see below for photos):

 

We are looking for donations by COB Thursday 15th December so that they can be distributed to UnitingCare agencies in a timely manner before the end of the year.   They can either be brought into the Synod Office, or we may be able to arrange for them to be collected, or provide you drop-off details for the UnitingCare agencies.

 

Thanks so much for your ongoing kind and generous support of people seeking asylum living in our local communities, and of the vital work of our UnitingCare agencies who assist these clients.

 

 

And finally ….

 

Thank you again for your tireless support during 2016 – for the postcards and petitions you’ve signed; the letters you’ve written; the MP’s you’ve visited; the phone calls you’ve made; the walks, marches and rallies you’ve attended; the forums you’ve supported; the events you’ve held locally; and all the conversations you’ve had with families, friends, neighbours and colleagues and your comments, shares and tweets on social media – thank you for everything!

 

We need your support so we can continue to deliver positive change for refugees and people seeking asylum, and look forward to working alongside you all closely again in 2017!

 

Enjoy this season of good will.  May its’ messages inspire you and may the time you spend with others – or alone – give you the rest you need, the joy you deserve, and all the peace you want.

Warm regards – Jill

Jill Ruzbacky

Social Justice Officer, Justice & International Mission
Commission for Mission