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06 July 2017

A new community flourishes

John Willis from St Vincent's Health Australia meets new residents 
John Willis from St Vincent's Health Australia meets new residents 

On a perfect Winter day, residents of the Eltham Refugee Housing and Support Project shared lunch with CatholicCare staff and volunteers and to acknowledge two people who were keen advocates for the establishment of the project.

It was late in 2015, following the Federal Government announcement that Australia would settle an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.  John Willis, Group Manager Inclusive Health at St Vincent’s Health Australia contacted Sheree Limbrick, Deputy CEO of CatholicCare to ask how the two organisations could partner to offer support to the families seeking to make a new home in Victoria. 

Together, they devised an innovative housing and support solution. St Vincent’s would provide accommodation in the form of disused bedsit units at Eltham Village and CatholicCare would provide Tenancy and Settlement Support. Refurbishments, planning permits and lots of community engagement followed – not to mention generous support from The Order of Malta, Gill Family Foundation and the Swan Family.  In December 2016, the first of the new residents moved in. 

Today, there are over 30 residents living at the units and many of them were enjoying the sunshine at the lunch held in the communal garden.

“It was wonderful seeing a growing community of people from Syria and Iraq at our aged care service in Eltham today,” said John Willis. “The welcome we received was a lovely reflection of the welcome offered by the residents of Eltham to those seeking a life free from violence and harm. The Arabic coffee, the homemade cakes, the smiles and laughter, the sharing of stories about family, all were a joy to experience and a pleasure to know that our mission of reaching out to those that are most vulnerable is alive and well.”

Sheree Limbrick was similarly pleased to see the fruits of the partnership in the flourishing of a new community.

“It is amazing to think that from a simple phone call from a colleague offering support for soon to arrive refugees from Syria and Iraq has grown this most amazing community response in Eltham,” said Sheree.  “This is an absolute practical expression of our Values – dignity for every person, compassion, inclusion, collaboration and responsibility.  This is CatholicCare at our best – partnering with others to support individuals, families and communities to change their lives.”

“As I left lunch today, I was left with a palpable sense of hope and belonging: hope of a safe and secure future for these families; and belonging – no matter what faith, culture, gender, tradition, background, age or circumstance, each one of us needs, and deserves, to belong!”

Read more about the Eltham Refugee Housing and Support Project

To enquire about how you can support the project, please email elthamproject@ccam.org.au 

A new community flourishes

Tom's Story

Violence can tear families apart. With your support, CatholicCare can help them rebuild their lives for a brighter future.