Asylum Seeker Project

Published: Wednesday, 01 April 2015

The Ashburton Baptist Church and the Ashburton churches collectively have had a long tradition of welcoming refugees to our local area.

This concern has been reawakened in different ways but especially with the visit of guest speaker Tri Nguyen to our Men’s Breakfast in October and as our guest preacher at the Combined Churches Advent Service in late November.

In addition to raising money for Tri’s work on both these occasions, Maurice Robson and Bernie Pigdon have been asking, “Is there more that we can do than take up an offering?” “Is there anything we might do on an ongoing basis here in our area?”

The idea of having an Ashburton Asylum Seeker Awareness and Action group was promoted and the first group meeting came together one Sunday in February over lunch in our café.

There were approximately 20 people who gathered, many with a rich and long experience through their professional life and also through their voluntary service: People who had helped welcome refugees from countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Iraq.

This group will continue to meet to raise awareness, to learn what people are already doing and it will be a group in which concerned people might find an area in which they can serve.

With this background a new proposal is being explored to look at the possibility of housing asylum seekers in our area.

Maurice and Bernie have initiated conversations with Baptcare with a view to looking at the possibility of them housing asylum seekers at 6A Y Street. You will know that our ABC property at 6A Y Street will soon become vacant.

Baptcare have visited and inspected the place and they are enthusiastic about the possibility as there is an urgent and pressing need for houses around the city of Melbourne.

At this stage the proposal is exploratory and no agreements have been entered into. Our deacons have given the green light for this proposal to be explored.

‘What are the parts of the project that need to come together for support to make this asylum seeker housing project a goer?’

Firstly we need to have a core group of people willing to take this project on.

Baptcare said they will take full responsibility for managing the residents so this group will need to manage the agreement with Baptcare plus coordinate volunteer support and fund raising.

We also need a broadly based Support Group with strong links into our church, other churches and the wider community that can draw in volunteers and pastoral support for the residents. We think the group that first met last month could be the foundation for that.

And we will need a Fund Raising Group. There is going to be a big gap between the costs of the project and what the residents can afford to pay. Some asylum seekers may receive Centrelink support while others don’t so we’ll need a group to help raise the funds that can be channeled through ABCSI and be tax deductible.

What sort of response are you looking for at this stage?

Because the project will be anchored by this church we need to have people step up to help manage the process from this point forward.  We also hope that people from other Ashburton churches and the community will want to contribute to this project and join the support network. Our next meeting is planned for Wednesday 15 April.

We need many people to catch the vision for this project and to respond to God’s call for us to act justly and compassionately. It’s a real opportunity for our church to be directly involved in responding to the enormous needs of asylum seekers,

So what is our timeframe?

There’s a lot of planning, thinking and organizing to launch a project like this. We think it’s a good 3 months before we can commence operating the house this way.

That’s it in a nutshell. There’ll be more to report as information comes to hand but we’d like to hear from people who might be interested in serving and giving in any of these different capacities. Please be in touch with Bernie and Maurice when he gets back from holiday.