Refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those who came by boat or who were detained on arrival, are among the most traumatized communities in Australia. This is in spite of their enormous potential to contribute to Australian society. The rocky path to permanent residency, with no government support like Centrelink and the ever present risk of being deported, makes the refugee experience particularly perilous.

Major agencies such as Red Cross provide essential services that assist asylum seekers and refugees wanting to settle in Australia and build a new and meaningful life. But those agencies have been subjected by governments to successive funding cuts.

A smaller welfare organization is Refugee Survivors and Ex-Detainees (RISE). Being the only such organization that is entirely self-governing, it focuses on delivering culturally appropriate support services and advocacy that are beyond charity and based on empowerment. The program, RISE Advocacy Services, supplies a volunteer case manager, with lived experience as a refugee, who knows how to navigate and advocate within the existing system, can refer members to legal services, find crisis housing and paid work. The wait-list for those services has grown enormously during the pandemic, which has ravaged refugee communities in Victoria.

Humanists Victoria has long deplored the government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, noted the fostering of inclusion pursued by RISE and granted ten thousand dollars for a two-year project to increase the capacity of RISE Advocacy Services. Its first task is to employ an experienced professional case-worker with a background in social work and community development. That person could train the existing staff and volunteers and provide specialised, targeted support to the wait-listed members. Secondly a professional project coordinator is needed, to manage the project and develop a holistic case-management system that triages those most critically in need of support.

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