The recent release of more than 60 people transferred from Manus and Nauru for medical treatment from detention facilities in Australia into the community has been an important step in the right direction, however, the support provided to these men and women (and those released in the future) is only short-term and will soon end.
Over the last few weeks, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has been working in consultation with sector partners, community advocates through the Find A Home Coalition and people recently released from detention to understand how we can best help.
Areas such as employment pathways and food aid were consistently mentioned. But what came out of these discussions was that the most pressing concern was the need for secure and safe housing when Government-funded support comes to an end.
In response to the emerging situation, the ASRC has created the Preventing Homelessness Fund to support people transferred under Medevac when released from detention facilities. This is an investment of $500,000 in housing solutions to support people who are the most vulnerable and at risk of homelessness.
The aim of the fund is to provide equitable and fair support to people released while doing so in a dignified way that offers people a level of choice and certainty into the future.
The fund, which will operate nationally for Medevac refugees released from detention across Australia will work in two ways:
- Option 1 – Partnering with state-based housing service providers
Under this model, the ASRC will cover the rental payments, bond and utility costs for group housing that is facilitated through agencies in each State. This model would provide multiple months of secure housing to prevent homelessness.
- Option 2 – Immediate financial support
To provide choice to people who have established relationships and support from friends in the community and wish to arrange their own lodgings (within funding constraints). In collaboration with the Find A Home coalition, the ASRC will front up the bond plus multiple months of rental payments to provide short-term secure housing while people find their feet and explore future employment opportunities.
The ASRC will continue to provide weekly food boxes to agencies to distribute to people released into the Melbourne community should they wish to receive them, and will continue our commitment to provide a one-off $1,000 Eftpos card to all Medevac refugees released across the country.
As an organisation committed to meeting the most pressing needs of people at their most critical junctures, we wish to stand together and united with the community to help ensure people are safe upon their release.
This emergency situation calls for crisis intervention and the ASRC is well-positioned to provide this support in addition to the ongoing work we undertake to support more than 7,000 people seeking asylum annually. The ASRC’s Detention Rights Advocacy work (link) will continue with clients, as well our legal representation of clients in detention through the Human Rights Law Program (link)
The ASRC continues to call on the Morrison Government to release all people they detained upon their arrival in Australia for medical treatment so they can access community support and independent medical care to recover their health while a safe and permanent resettlement solution is also advocated for.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do people go about accessing the Preventing Homelessness Fund or referring people to it?
The Find A Home Coalition will have a website that will soon be live which will be the direct point of contact for referrals and accommodation requests, with a working group supporting accommodation requests. The details of partnering agencies will also be listed on this website, and this page. The Find A Home Coalition has a strong understanding of the need that’s required, and what the roadblocks are into the future.
Is the fund available to people outside Victoria?
Yes, the fund will be available to people interstate.
Option 1 will be available through agencies that the ASRC will partner with in Sydney, Brisbane and where it’s also required, in other states.
Option 2 will be available via the Find A Home Coalition, nationally via a referral process – with the ASRC’s role being in the financial processing of payments to tenancy associations and landlords.
Who is eligible for the fund?
Right now, the fund is dedicated to supporting people who have been Medevaced to Australia for medical treatment and have since been released from detention. The fund is designed to support those people who are most vulnerable and at risk of homelessness and will be administered on a case by case basis.
Will the fund reimburse people in the community who are supporting someone at their home?
No – the fund is not designed to provide reimbursements to members of the community. The generosity of the community towards people released has been incredible, however, the aim of this fund is to support people who do not already have access to support networks and are at imminent risk of homelessness.
When is the fund available?
While the fund will officially launch on March 1, 2021 – the ASRC has already begun to support people with both options, where emergency situations required it. This was managed through the Find A Home Coalition.
What happens at the end of the payment period?
This emergency fund is designed to help get people back on their feet so they can work towards finding employment that suits their needs and hopes for the future while living independently in the community. While the fund is not anticipated to be in place for more than this period, it will be continuously reviewed and we’ll work with partners in the months leading up to the end of a payment period to support their transition into independent living arrangements.
Why is the ASRC not providing people released with direct cash payments instead – wouldn’t this be easier?
The ASRC has chosen a method that provides independence, dignity and choice while also meeting our regulatory obligations. The ASRC is required to maintain stringent financial records and audit trails as a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Non-Profit Commission, and the Australian Taxation Office, while all accounts and financial information is independently audited. This means we need to be accountable for how donations are allocated, and this process allows us to achieve the balance of service delivery and our reporting and accountability requirements.
Equally, the advice from agencies, community advocates and the people released is that accommodation has been one of the hardest challenges to overcome due to lack of paperwork, identification and upfront, available funds for bond and rental payments.
How will we know people are being supported?
While we can’t provide details of individual arrangements to the general public due to privacy constraints, we’ll use this page, our social media channels and emails to our supporters to communicate how much funding has been allocated and the number of people being supported. We’re soon launching a new page on our website for these numbers, but for now, we’ll be updating this web page with facts and figures.
Will the ASRC offer any other support to people released?
The ASRC will continue to provide weekly food boxes to agencies supporting people who would like to receive them in Melbourne and will continue our commitment to provide a one-off $1,000 Eftpos card to any Medevac refugee upon their release into the community, no matter their location in Australia.
The ASRC has been consulting with sector partners providing employment pathways for men and women and would continue to explore ways to collaborate to enable a successful transition to work and sustainable income.
The ASRC Detention Rights Advocacy Program will continue to support people they have been working with while in detention with information on accessing services as they transition to life in the community. The Detention Rights Advocacy Program’s primary function is to continue to support people who remain in detention both in Australia and offshore.
We’ll also continue to support the working groups established by the Find A Home coalition where they may need us, including the sharing of knowledge and resources. We know the best outcomes for everyone come through collaboration and working together.
Who was consulted in this decision to create the fund?
The ASRC has worked closely with the Find A Time Coalition, sector partners and Medevac refugees themselves to ensure this fund is best meeting their immediate needs and overcoming the hurdles that may result in imminent homelessness.
Where are the funds coming from?
The funds have been accessed from the ASRC’s financial reserves, as approved by our Board of Directors. The full $500,000 has been made available to support people over the coming months, while our commitments to providing Eftpos cards and food support amongst other emerging needs are accounted for through previous fundraising efforts.
Will the ASRC be fundraising for this work?
No, the ASRC is not soliciting donations directly for this work, as it’s being drawn from our reserves.
Are the funds for this work coming from your recent appeal that focused on detention?
No – the funds raised from our appeal at the end of last year are already allocated to our existing work in detention, including funding our work in detention rights advocacy and casework, human rights law and legal representation, ongoing campaigning for policy change and our Basic Needs Fund to provide people with tangible support.
The ASRC has spent over 19 years advocating for the rights of people in detention in collaboration with sector partners and refugee advocates. The ASRC’s Detention Rights Advocacy Program was formed as a response to Australia’s horrific detention policies, to advocate for fair treatment and release while we have represented people in the courts and supported their needs, emotional and otherwise.
The funding for the majority of this work has always come from untied financial reserves or from general donations that go towards the area of greatest need. Our annual, public appeals could never cover the full cost of such broad, labour intensive and complex work and only cover some of our investment in this work every year. In recent years, this investment has been multi-million, to respond to the urgent needs of people during the Medevac and Kids off Nauru periods of time.
We continue to fund this work because it’s the right thing to do, in line with our mission and our strategic priorities in meeting the greatest needs of people. This will mean that in the financial year 2020/21, the ASRC will go further into deficit within our budget, and we are committed to do so.