Manresa Circle of Friends

Making lasting friendships and providing support to Asylum Seekers

Manresa Circle (Circle 117) was formed by a a group of like-minded people coming together to support and guide a family of asylum seekers who are on a Bridging Visa. People on Bridging Visas have no financial support apart from education for their children and access to Medicare. They are allowed to work; however, they are excluded from English lessons at TAFE which of course adds to the difficulty of finding employment.

The Manresa Circle have assisted in finding housing for the family they support, and paying rent and utility bills.With the generous help of St Vincent de Paul Society the family were also clothed and fed. We negotiated schools for the children, and helped with uniforms and equipment, and applied for School Cards for them. Bank accounts were opened, a Medicare card applied for (which must be re-applied for every six months), and of course various government departments dealt with.

Some of this is on-going, as well as taking them to medical appointments, driving them to school sports, and accompanying them to other Agencies who also provide support. We also provide incidental assistance to other asylum seekers in the area when a request is made.

With our assistance the father found work in a local supermarket, and he has successfully maintained his position and is working part-time at this point. As a result, the family has taken over some part of their living expenses.

Every person who arrives here to live from another culture needs to find their way in the new social environment they find themselves in. They need to learn the norms and mores of our Australian society; lots of things that we take for granted everyone will just know are very different from other cultures. An important part of our role in the family’s settlement has been to help them navigate and avoid these potential potholes.

There are difficulties inherent in the Bridging Visa system because with all the uncertainties asylum seekers are unable to move on with their lives. Asylum seekers have left their countries not through choice, but because they’ve had to in order to survive, and they are being constantly re-traumatised by the system. The pain is exacerbated by the government regulations and limitations.

In order to fulfil our commitment to pay the rent we have regular fundraising events taking the form of an annual Concert, a Quiz night, a Bingo night and a Book and Plant Sale all of which have been generously supported by the community; we are adding a Garage Sale this year.

There are many rewards in being part of any Circle of Friends. For us these include the forming of lasting friendships with the family, and within the Circle itself, and amongst the wider community that supports us. We work hard at times, and we have a lot of fun, and we make a lasting contribution.

For more information on this circle contact convenor Ruth Gordon via email.  You can support the work of the Manresa Circle (Circle 117) by making a donation.