For refugees, arriving in a new country can herald a new beginning and hope for a brighter future.
However, the road to settlement is rarely easy – in fact many refugees struggle on a range of fronts to settle well in their new community.
One of the things that comes with living in a new country is a new government and new systems, which can be difficult to navigate especially for refugees who cannot speak or understand English.
At CatholicCare, we offer a free six-week program for refugees to help them learn about Victoria’s justice systems, as well as topics relating to wellbeing and family.
CatholicCare’s Justice Education Program in Dandenong is run in partnership with Dandenong Magistrates’ Court, which provides the necessary funding to operate the program. Participants from refugee backgrounds engage with new speakers each week on topics including the Court System; Victoria Police; VicRoads and driving information; immigration issues; family relationships; and mental and physical wellbeing.
Last week, Karen and Edward from VicRoads presented on driving topics such obtaining a drivers’ licence, undertaking driving tests, understanding safe driving, and how demerit points work.
‘It’s been very rewarding,’ said Karen. ‘We like to do these for the community, and it’s great to see that these ladies and men are just enjoying everything - smiling all the time and wanting to get out there and make a good life for themselves.’
Participants were engaged in the discussion, asking questions about speed zones, parking and the different types of drivers’ licences, among many other topics.
‘I think the whole concept of driving tests and the requirements for driving tests got them interested, but also the responsibilities of being a driver on the road. But I think just looking at their eyes and seeing how passionate and interested they were – how hungry they are to be able to get that licence, for their families and children, and to be able to do what they want to do – it makes a whole world of difference for them,’ said Edward.
And it really does – for refugees, particularly single parents – driving opens up a whole new world of possibilities and enables them the freedom to go on with their daily life. Dropping off children at school, finding employment, attending appointments and going on day trips are all made possible with a drivers’ licence and the important knowledge they learned in this week’s session.
Following the presentation, Karen and Edward joined the group for a lovely home-cooked meal prepared by one of the refugees, and everyone sat around the table sharing food, stories and laughter.
We thank VicRoads for joining us as part of the Justice Education Program, and we thank the Dandenong Magistrates’ Court for their valuable contribution. Learn more about the programs and services offered by CatholicCare to refugees here.