Circle of Friends receives Red Cross Humanitarian Partner Award

On Tuesday at the Red Cross SA AGM, Circle of Friends was presented with the Australian Red Cross Humanitarian Partner Award with the following citation:

Australian Red Cross
Humanitarian Partner Award
Circle of Friends Australia consists of local community groups which support refugees and asylum seekers 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, with the challenges of detention. Eighteen of the Circles are located in the greater Adelaide metropolitan area.

Circles of Friends in South Australia has provided exceptional support to people seeking asylum in the community. The Circles work closely with the Migration Support Program Emergency Relief staff to assist people seeking asylum with material needs such as rent payments, medical and pharmaceutical expenses, educational support, and the cost of health and fitness activities, amongst many more.

In response to COVID-19, the COVID Support Circle was established and led by Catherine Russell. With the support of the Department of Social Services Funds were facilitated by Red Cross in SA, along with other funds raised by the Circle, the COVID Support Circle delivered food parcels to 150 households for 11 months, involving 60 volunteers. This food service was exceptional in supporting our joint clients who had been impacted by the loss of work due to the pandemic.

In a similar fashion, the release of 11 families and 9 single people (a total of 60 individuals) from Community Detention in late 2020, the Circles of Friends raised funds to support the housing costs of the majority of these people, while Australian Red Cross was able to provide financial assistance for six months or until people gained employment.

Without the ongoing collaboration with Circle of Friends, Emergency Relief within Migrant Support Programs would not have been able to assist those in greatest need.

Circle of Friends Australia are worthy recipients of this Humanitarian Partner Award.

Signed by Ross Piney – Red Cross President August 2021

Many Circles were involved in assisting families and individuals through the COVID pandemic:

Other Circles are also doing excellent work and are worthy recipients of this award.

We are grateful to Red Cross for this recognition of our work. None of us can do everything that is needed, so partnerships and collaboration are crucially important. We work with many agencies and institutions in Adelaide and SA. I’d also like to acknowledge the committee, all the circle members and our donors for all the generosity and volunteer work so many people undertake.

Than you

Monica O’Wheel
Chair, Circle of Friends Australia Inc

Justice For Refugees Media Release On Afghan Refugees

We must do more, and better, for Afghan refugees

South Australian refugee advocates are calling on the Australian Government to do more to help Afghan refugees currently fleeing the chaos and looming humanitarian crisis in Taliban- controlled Afghanistan, and to offer permanent protection to the more than 4200 Afghan refugees currently in Australia on temporary protection visa (TPVs).

As far back as April retired military leaders, foreign affairs commentators, Afghan community leaders and human rights advocates have been calling on the Australian Government to do more to help evacuate Afghan nationals who served alongside Australian forces as interpreters, guards and local guides. Other groups who have much to fear include academics, journalists, human rights activists, women and members of the Hazara ethnic group.

“These people quite rightly fear for their lives and safety under the Taliban,” says Rev Sandy Boyce, Chair of Justice for Refugees SA. After reports that Australia’s first evacuation mission to Afghanistan rescued just 26 people, she fears the Australian Government will abandon them to an uncertain future under a regime with a long track record of human rights abuses.

Rev Boyce said attempts to brush off those calling on the Australian Government to do more and better as “lounge chair experts” were laughable. “Retired Admiral Chris Barrie is no armchair expert,” she said. “Nor are the members of our local Afghan community in Adelaide or returned Australian service personnel who have also been vocal.”

In relation to Afghan refugees already in Australia, Rev Boyce welcomed the statements from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne that no Afghan visa holder currently in Australia will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation there remains dire and that those currently in Australia on temporary visas will be supported by the Australian government. “Afghan refugees currently in Australia deserve much more in the way of certainty, security, and support. As we have consistently argued, TPVs offer none of these for refugees claiming protection under Australia’s treaty obligations,” she said.

Rev Boyce also applauded the statement from the South Australian Leader of the Opposition calling on the Federal Government to show some compassion and offer a path to permanency for Afghan refugees currently in Australia. Rev Boyce called on other State and Territory leaders to similarly step up.

There are at least 4,200 Afghans on temporary visas in Australia and 53 in detention. “Quite understandably, community leaders say they are terrified of being sent back to Afghanistan,” said Rev Boyce. “And let us not kid ourselves by pretending the situation in Afghanistan is going to change anytime soon.”

The Australian government should immediately place a moratorium on all deportations and forced returns of Afghan nationals. Because temporary visas are subject to applications for renewal, we urge the Australian Government to create a pathway to permanent residency for all those on precarious temporary visas. Citizens of Afghanistan transferred to Papua New Guinea or Nauru should be relocated to Australia and similarly afforded international protection.

“As a nation we have done this very recently, following our better lights,” said Rev Boyce, pointing out that Australia granted protection to Hongkongers in December, extending their temporary visas by five years and providing a pathway to permanent residency.

Show your solidarity for the Afghan people living by attending a candlelight vigil in Victoria Square/ Tarntanyangga at 6pm on Sat 21 Aug 2021.

The Good News Update

By Trish, Rapid Response for Refugees Circle

Supporting women to find employment

Together with other Circles, AMES and the Vinnies Welcoming Centre at Kilburn, Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110) is proud to have helped two wonderful women on their journey to employment – one with attaining a Care Certificate, the other with restarting her own Business here in Adelaide.

You will find Diamond of Nails and Beauty in Regent Arcade Adelaide – Shop 28, 101 Rundle Mall. Manicures, pedicures, eyelash extensions and waxing every day except Sunday. Care for natural and acrylic nails with special “bundle and save” offers of $25 acrylic nails full set for students and a Tuesday offers for Seniors of a manicure and pedicure for $30.

A blissful experience
Sometimes it is an absolute joy to be a volunteer, especially when it means meeting up with people who are newly arrived in the Adelaide area and starting a new life.

It was my recent privilege to meet up with this beautiful grandmother from Guatemala, her son and his family and, later her daughter in law’s sister.

After contact with their Case Manager, I delivered warm bedding to this beautiful young woman, her husband and 2 children as well.

Every bedding package had either a clean recycled quilt and a new cover or a new washable winter weight quilt with new or recycled quilt cover and some blankets and throws. Everything looked and smelt super clean and was washed, ironed and ready to go straight on to the beds.

I arrived with some Spanish phrases on paper; the family had voice activated Google Translate! Just as well because I lost the screws for the bedroom heater in the plastic packaging. Much hilarity ensued.

Sincere thanks to everyone who has donated money or goods to be distributed via  Rapid Response for Refugees Circle.

Supporting Refugee Education for 19 years

The St Ignatius Refugee Education Circle (Circle 106) was established in early 2002 and has operated continuously since then. The members focus on helping refugees and asylum seekers gain educational qualifications to enable them to lead dignified lives and to join the Australian workforce in jobs that allow them to support their families appropriately.

This year, we have funded requests from 8 students. As always the needs of the students they support is varied with the most recent funds spent on reimbursements to scholarship holders for Student Amenity fees, two computers, fees for university entrance exams, two sets of TAFE level fees for Certificate courses and help to one student to meet the requirements for field placement in a Human Movement degree.

After the COVID closure last year, we were able to resume our Mothers’ Day Flower Stall again this year.  We enjoyed convivial community participation as we gathered on Saturday morning to make donated flowers and greenery into posies and arrangements for sale. We included a cake raffle that continued the flower theme and handed out thumbnail sketches showing how funding helps students.We are grateful to all you participated in this event.

Until May, the requests this year have been minimal. Recently other refugee services have become aware that we are again in a position to fund more student requests, resulting in more referrals. To fund the increased level of referrals for assistance the St Ignatius Refugee Education Circle will hold an appeal in our Parish community over the weekend of 24-25 July.

Contributions to St Ignatius Refugee Education Circle help students like B.

B, oldest son of a family of eight, arrived from Syria on a Permanent Humanitarian Visa. With assistance from our Refugee Education Fund,he completed a training course in Security Operations and to the delight of his family he is now employed and getting on with his life.

To support education for refugees and asylum seekers donate via our secure Give Now page with reference of Circle 106 or fill in our donation form and return by email.

Overwhelming support for our work during Covid-19

We have previously posted about the difficulties faced by refugees and asylum seekers through the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then there have been great efforts by Circles to assist the refugee community. A new Circle was set up which distributed food on a weekly basis for up to 60 family units. Another new Circle was established to seek employment for refugees who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic. COFA was faced with many requests for assistance to pay the rent for refugee families who had lost their income and so another Circle grew to pay rent. Other Circles kept on with their contact, supporting the refugees they knew.

It has all meant a huge demand on the resources of the Circles. As COFA has found in the past, when we are faced with a crisis, our donors and supporters have stepped up and provided us with all the resources we have needed. It is a remarkable situation for COFA to be in, to realise once again that we are blessed with very many generous people who want to support us in this critical work. Most touching for the Treasurer was to see the number of $750 donations which came into our bank account when those sums were given by the Federal Government to Pensioners and Social Security beneficiaries. These people on low incomes themselves indicated that they believed that refugees needed the government support more than they did.

We had very many churches who made large donations to COFA including one which has donated almost $20,000, another nearly $13,000. We have had five Trusts who have made grants of $32,000 between them and a Pharmacy donated $10,000. There have been so many donations from individuals of $1,000 and more, not to mention the hosts of donors who contribute regularly on say a weekly basis. It is quite overwhelming to be conscious of such generosity. COFA also received a grant of $10,000 from the State Government and more than $53,000 from the Federal Government through the auspices of the Australian Red Cross for food.

What it has also shown to us is that our model of being a community based organisation run entirely by volunteers with minimal administrative costs is attractive to individual donors, philanthropic organisations and even government agencies. In the eight years since COFA was formed, we have grown from a $30,000 per year small charity to a half million dollar mid-sized Australian charity.

There as many people in our Circles who have done so much to assist refugees and asylum seekers, giving of their time and energy so selflessly and we are so grateful to them. But they could only do this essential work with the encouragement and financial resources from all our donors and supporters. For all that effort and generosity, we are truly most humble and thankful to you all. You are amazing people, showing such concern for these people who have suffered so much in their past and presently experiencing such need. We thank you on their behalf and deep from our own hearts.