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Vinnies centre providing vital assistance to refugees


From humble beginnings in 2001, the St Vincent de Paul Society Migrant and Refugee Centre is now providing assistance to up to 30 people per day.

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Since 2015, the service has been running from behind the Sacred Heart Church on Port Road, Hindmarsh, and over the past year alone has provided emergency relief to almost 2500 refugees and migrants.

Mary Ireland is the Centre’s coordinator and says that this staggering number in fact only represents contacts who attend the centre.

“We have people who come in for assistance who have families with up to 13 children, so that initial contact with one attendee can mean we end up offering help to another dozen people,” she says.

Over the past year the Centre has doubled the assistance it provides due to word of mouth, expansion with other agencies and an increased intake of Syrian refugees.

The service provides assistance to people from 36 different countries, with the most represented being Afghanistan, Syria, India and Iran.

Emergency relief comes in the form of food and clothing vouchers, assistance with utility bills and furniture.

As well as this, the Centre provides English language tuition, a low-income loans scheme, housing advice, financial and budget counselling and advocacy, among a range of other services such as oral health and eye health days.

Open three and half days per week, the centre relies on the help of 37 volunteers who ensure the effective running of the service.

Mrs Ireland says the Centre often feels like a “big family” and that many of the people who receive assistance then offer their own time as volunteers, especially as translators.

“Many want to give back for the assistance they have received and they also see volunteering as an additional way to develop their English language and networking skills,” she says.

“Some of our bilingual volunteers have gone on to volunteer for other agencies such as the Australian Migrant Resource Centre and some have been able to secure employment.”

As well as providing assistance to refugees and migrants, the Centre has been able to heighten knowledge in the local community about issues people face when arriving in Australia.

“A lot of the people we help have experienced significant trauma,” says Mrs Ireland.

“They may have mental and physical health problems, have had to leave family behind, or they may face more practical everyday problems like never having had to pay an electricity bill before.

“We are here to listen to people’s stories and assist in whatever way we can to help them in their settlement journey.

“These people are desperate to work and make a contribution and provide for their families and our goal is to help them achieve that.”

The Migrant and Refugee Centre does not receive any government funding and since 2016 has relied on funding from the community and Vinnies fundraising events such as the Christmas Appeal and CEO Sleepout.

The Centre gratefully accepts any donations including blankets, nappies, toiletries (particularly for men), and household linen.

Cash donations can also cover the costs of food, shoes, pharmacy items and emergency situations as well as educational fees and related expenses.

Gifts for children are also in demand as every year the service delivers Christmas hampers. Last year volunteers delivered gifts to more than 160 families all over Adelaide.




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