About Us

COFA members at 2018 AGM

Circle of Friends Australia consists of local community groups which support asylum seekers and refugees living in the community, or visit those in detention. Members of each Circle are volunteers who come from a wide range of backgrounds but share a common commitment to welcoming and assisting new arrivals with the difficult process of establishing themselves in a new country, or with the challenges of detention.

 Irrespective of varying political views, we believe Australians are welcoming, generous and compassionate people, and we try to demonstrate these Australian values towards our newest arrivals.

Our Objectives

  • To support asylum seekers and refugees in the community and in detention.
  • To assist people and communities suffering in situations of conflict, displacement, disaster, discrimination and poverty.
  • To organise educational activities to inform members and the public about issues relating to asylum seekers and refugees.
  • To encourage the formation and growth of regional groups to support refugees and asylum seekers in their community.

Our Principles

Circles and their members:

  • Provide open, unconditional friendship.
  • Work to enable, not to create dependency
  • Act with the knowledge and consent of those assisted
  • Foster open, transparent communication with lawyers, migration agents, other professionals and government officers.

Our Work

We assist new arrivals to:

  • Meet people and make connections within the local community
  • Learn about nearby community services and organisations which can assist them or give them the opportunity to assist others.
  • Practice having conversations in English.
  • Understand Australian customs and attitudes.
  • Understand government processes and requirements.
  • Make the best of any opportunity for education.
  • Some Circles also help out those in critical material or financial difficulty. Read more about our financial support services.

Our History

Circle of Friends Australia is a unique movement started by a handful of people round a kitchen table in June 2002, shortly before the massive National Protests against the War in Iraq. Our founding members sought to gain the release of asylum seekers and refugees being held in detention.

When the initial focus on advocacy was not successful, we turned our attention to supporting individuals and families. Each local circle took responsibility for deciding who and how many asylum seekers and refugees it supported and raised its own funds to do this.

Founding members came predominantly from Human Services, Legal, Health (Medical, Dental, Mental Health, Nursing), Educational, Human Rights Advocacy and Financial backgrounds but undertook Circle action as volunteers, independently of their paid work and Professional profile. Over time a range of work colleagues, students, retirees, families, friends and neighbours supported our work and became actively involved.  We also attracted in kind and financial support from Welfare and Church Groups.

In the first year, 12 Circles were formed and by October 2004, there were 47 each with between 10 and 100 plus members. At the Movement’s peak there were over 100 active Circles involving thousands of people across all age groups.

This model for practical, grassroots action in regard to a highly charged political and community issue has endured and developed into Circle of Friends Australia (COFA) with many founding members still involved.


Circle of Friends Australia Inc. is registered with the Australia Taxation Office as a Public and Benevolent Body, and with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission as a Charity with tax deductible receipting status for donations. Our ABN is 33 367 145 336.

COFA’s organisational accountability is through a Management Committee and compliance with our Constitution, including an Audited Financial Statement. If you would like more information on our organisation please contact us.