Ongoing Struggle to Meet Basic Needs

CIRCLE 110 update on activities in May 2020

During May, Circle 110 (Rapid Response for Refugees) has continued to focus on people in crisis referred by Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Agencies. The latter have been inundated with calls from individuals and families facing homelessness, hunger and cold, who have no income or Government Benefits, no savings and no-one else to ask for help.

Circle 110 payments for the calendar month of May amounted to an all-time high of nearly $13,000. Approximately 70% of this covered rent, food, warm clothes and bedding, heaters, medical, petrol and mobile phone costs, for 3 families (6 adults and 7 children). To make funds go further, good quality donated items were combined with new ones on hand or with Shopping Centre Vouchers, especially for clothes and shoes.

The remaining money helped 6 other individuals with smaller amounts for the same items. It also included the transfer of $400 through a Circle providing food hampers to temporarily support two couples living in rural areas whose businesses were forced to close.

Both the content of the spending and the amounts required reflect the hardship arising from the impact of COVID-19, particularly those with neither work nor money.

Something Positive

We have been blessed with donors’ generosity, enabling our Circle to say “yes” to everyone who has asked for help. Sincere thanks to you all – individuals, other Circles and Organisations including our friends at “Incognito Café”.

We wish we could share the smiles of those we help as they reiterate their thanks. We are touched by the pride they show when introducing their children and showing their homes which are so well cared for.

While we have no photos, we wanted to share some of the positive feedback we have received from support agencies, as these thanks belong to all our supporters as well:

I am very pleased with the amazing service you guys provide by assisting the people in need with financial & material aid. I would like to convey a ‘Big Thanks’ on behalf of my clients, (Agency) and myself. Thank you so much for getting to them and supporting them with basic amenities. My clients all rang me yesterday and they were so happy. Believe me, this makes you so happy and provides you a sense of achievement.

Thank you so much for making a difference in everyone’s lives through your positive work, warmth and reaching out attitude.

I manage clients with complex and sensitive needs. Thanks for reaching out and making them feel good about the system and environment around them.


Every amount spent is formally accounted for as COFA’s sterling Treasurer will tell you and a properly Audited Financial Report is completed at the end of each Financial Year.

If you would like to contribute to the work of the Rapid Response or any other Circle, Tax receipts are available for every donation above $2. When donating, please make sure you identify: the Circle you want your contribution to go; your name; and an email or postal address so a receipt can be sent to you. You can donate via our secure GiveNow page or contact us for bank transfer details.

For broader contextual information and lobbying advice please refer to the latest Newsletter from Justice for Refugees SA. Their Senate submission is especially informative.

So once again, sincere thanks to everyone supporting the efforts of Circles of Friends Australia in every way you do that.

Tricia, Denise and Leeanne (Rapid Response for Refugees Circle)

One family’s story

Bill and Cara have 3 children, 2 born in Australia. The moved to Adelaide a few months ago on the promise of full-time work and a house. The reality was the work was initially part-time and now with COVID-19 even this has gone. They pay full market rent for the worst house in the street, albeit with furniture on loan from the landlord who is unable to waive or reduce their rent. On a Bridging Visa, they have no income and no Government support.

As other resources diminished and their fridge emptied, the Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110) stepped up. Funds were transferred overnight so they could have food on the table next day.

When rent negotiations failed, money was transferred at the end of day 2 to pay another fortnight, buy food for the Easter weekend, pay an outstanding utilities account, renew mobile phone credit for the parents, become a member of the local Costco and buy a few warm clothes for the children. One volunteer also delivered a few treats for the children who were arguing in the back room at the time (as siblings do)!

This payment scenario will need to be repeated until either a Government payment is available and/or free accommodation in the general area of outer north-east of Adelaide is found for the duration of this crisis. In the meantime, any donations to help this very lovely family will be welcomed. You can make a donation via our secure GiveNow account with reference of “Circle 110: Bill”.

Hunger During COVID-19

Last week the Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110) was again reminded of the difficulties for refugees and asylum seekers with no income as a result of job losses and their ineligibility for Centrelink support.

At 4.15pm on Thursday, as the sun’s light began to fade, we suddenly wondered what the family of four referred for help that morning would be eating that night.

A quick phone call was made to ask if they had food for that evening. “We have potatoes,” the mother replied. Delicious as fresh potatoes can be, this answer in Adelaide 2020, related as fact without self-pity, was too sad.

Yes, they would go out to buy more food if they had money.

An online transfer to their account, a text when it was done, and the funds were cleared within minutes. A friend had entrusted $50 cash for an emergency and this was it!

Other sites, such as Rural Australians for Refugees and Australian Refugee Action Network, as well as our previous news updates explain how refugees and asylum seekers are facing such dire situations. Circle 110’s role is to deal with the everyday realities. It was a relief to be able to do that for this family of four.

Thank you all for supporting us as we do our best to walk with some of those in life threatening situations during this challenging time. We are very grateful to the outpouring of support for our work in this past week and that it means we do not have to turn away people in need.

Trish, Leeanne and Denise, Circle 110 Co-Convenors

COVID-19 situation has left many Asylum Seekers and Refugees without any income or access to healthcare

With COVID 19, many asylum seekers on Bridging visas, like a lot of other people, have lost their jobs.  Bridging visa holders are asylum seekers residing in Australia and waiting for the Government to process their claim for asylum. They are not eligible for either Centrelink or Medicare. Some have been here since 2012, which shows the great inefficiency of this Government and the betrayal of the Labor Government in their lack of processing in a reasonable timeframe. A number of Circles within Circle of Friends Australia, detailed below, are trying to meet the urgent need of these asylum seekers in COIVD 19 times. Any donations you can provide will go directly towards ensuring that people do not become homeless or lack basic necessities.

The Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110), assists people who have been referred by Social Support Organisations in South Australia, particularly Red Cross and STTARS. Funding for this circle from from the Fundraising initiatives of other Circles and from individual donations. Red Cross has recently received a $7 million Australia wide grant from the Federal Government to support all Temporary visa holders, which includes international students, temporary migrant workers and asylum seekers. It won’t be enough. Going home is not an option for asylum seekers. Circle 110 is rapidly going through its available money as the current need is so great. Trish Dundon who convenes this Circle has written an update which you can read in our news section.

For many years Catherine Russell, (Circle 124), has tirelessly been supporting people who were transferred to Adelaide from Nauru and Manus by the Australian Government and asylum seekers on Bridging visas. As part of this she has been visiting and supporting asylum seekers in the immigration detention facility in Kilburn and in community detention.  In the wake of COVID 19, Catherine along with Libby Hogarth, have been ringing people in Adelaide to find out how they are and compiled a database of 200 families and individuals, recording their situation and needs.  Many now have no income. Catherine is gratefully receiving donations via our secure Give Now account so she can distribute food, rent, mobile phone payments, car registration, pharmacy bills etc as needed to the people in need. 

Rachel in Broadview is organising the distribution of food to people in need. She has a Facebook page ‘Adelaide Asylum seeker COVID19 food and essentials – supporter group’ through which she is taking donations to distribute to people.   Financial donations for this food support initiative can made via our secure Give Now account with the reference of Circle 122.

The Blackwood and Hills Circle of Friends (Circle 7) is supporting students on Shev visas who have scholarships at Adelaide University. Some have lost part-time jobs and so now need greater help. Circle 7 is also a major contributor to Circle 110. Due to Covid-19 restrictions Circle 7 is unable to undertake its usual fundraising events. Email appeals like this are all that we can do in terms of fundraising at the moment.

A new Circle, Circle 121, was recently set up in response to the lack of funds from St Vincent de Paul to assist asylum seekers in the Refugee Support Centre. They are raising money to help people directly.

Welcome Australia is also packing up food for people to pick up. They are working on a plan to deliver food.

You can help support some of the people left without Government support in wake of COVID 19 by donating to Circles of Friends Australia via our secure Give Now account. Or to make a direct deposit into our bank account contact us for bank details.

All donations over $2 are tax-deductible. Please include a reference to the Circle you would like money to be directed to. This reference is important. It ensures your donation goes to the Circle of your choice.

Thank you for your contributions
Monica O’Wheel, Chair Circle of Friends Co-ordinating Committee

If Everyone Helps Someone…..

Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110) Update, Easter 2020

It’s Been Busy!

A massive thank you to everyone who has donated to Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110), especially over the past few months. Regular or one-off donations and other Circles have kept our Circle afloat. A recent Bequest was perfectly timed as referring Agencies are overwhelmed by the large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers feeling the effects of the Covid-19 response on jobs.

Between 1 July 2019 and 9 April 2020, the Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110) made 128 payments of more than $31, 700, literally helping 40 separate individuals and families to survive. This includes enabling people to retain basics like housing and utilities, feeding and clothing children fed, accessing essential medication and tests. “Paul” remains under medical supervision after his major surgery. He has twice been refused a Visa, and does not receive any social security. Our circle provides him with a small amount of money each week to cover shared rent, food, a Metro ticket and mobile phone costs.

Our three person team has also distributed donations of new clothes and bedding, food, furniture and whitegoods all in good condition. These have been received not just with gratitude but with excitement, especially by children involved.

The New Challenge

Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders are eligible for Government support through Centrelink. Those on Bridging Visas, with or without work rights are not. No work means no money or welfare payments.

Life Without Barriers (LWB) have requested temporary changes to the eligibility criteria for Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for these and others in the community ineligible for mainstream Centrelink services. Additional Government funding has been promised which will help some. In the meantime, Refugee Support Service Agencies are becoming increasingly desperate and asking Circles of Friends Australia (COFA) more frequently for help to clients meet basic costs.

For example, not all landlords are willing or perhaps able to waive or reduce rent. Eviction is prohibited but harassment can’t be monitored. One of the Circle’s basic goals is to help families retain stable housing.

The Rapid Response for Refugees Circle (Circle 110) is a point of last resort for Refugee Support Service Agencies but options for workers who refer clients to us have become extremely limited.

What can be done?

There are many ways to get involved. If each of us helps one other person or family we will get through the Covid-19 crisis together.
Options include to: