With International Human Rights Day on December the 10th, it is also a time to reflect on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Australia was an original signatory and how we uphold our commitments.
A commitment to protecting the rights of individuals, to live in freedom and safety, and to uphold human rights no matter the gender, skin colour or religious beliefs a person holds.
Instead of providing hope, the government has hid behind Draconian policy, a far cry from what our current government promised, continuing to leave people with no work rights and no access to basic safety nets, leaving people behind.
Amidst the sea of gift-gifting, social events and holiday planning, there is a much deeper story at the heart of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) this festive season, the story of hope.
During this time of the year, many families seeking asylum that access our services can find things to be incredibly challenging. All around them, people prepare for celebrations surrounded by loved ones, whilst they find themselves grappling with the painful absence of the friends and family they had to leave behind to seek safety. With the ongoing pressure of the cost of living crisis affecting us all, it’s the people who are already experiencing disadvantage that are feeling it the most.
The disparity in circumstances is evident with refugees and families seeking asylum watching others purchasing an abundance of gifts for their loved ones, whilst struggling to purchase food or essentials themselves. To feel the magnitude of trying to make ends meet whilst desperately missing loved ones, hope can feel out of reach for many refugee families.
Young families like Mauricio and Ani, who arrived in Melbourne from Venezuela this year, seeking safety with their two children Sofia and Lucas and another child on the way. The insurmountable danger their family was facing, forced them to leave their home to find safety here, leaving behind their support system of friends and family.
“The situation in our country got so difficult and dangerous that almost all our family had to escape. We were no longer safe and the persecution was taking a big toll on Ani and me.”
While their family was able to escape the perilous situation they were facing, they had to navigate new risks. Arriving on a Bridging Visa without work rights or access to essential healthcare through Medicare, Mauricio and Ani were battling the fear of not being able to put a meal on the table for their children or take care of their health needs.
The strain of the cost of living crisis further exacerbated their predicament, making the essentials seem out of reach for their family. Hesitant to accept the generosity and assistance offered by others, the couple had to “get creative” to gather enough money to survive.
“It was hard to accept help. So I offered my mind and strength to give something back to those who helped us. People were donating money in exchange for some easy tasks. I was a gardener, a dishwasher, a cleaner… I even helped an old man in my neighbourhood walk his dog.”
Mauricio and Ani felt hopeless until they arrived at the ASRC.
The ASRC opened its doors and arms to Mauricio and his family, providing them with the support they needed including vital health care for Ani and assistance with their Medicare application.
After the birth of their third child, Oliver, Ani was hospitalised after a high-risk pregnancy, impacted by her auto-immune disease and high blood pressure, leaving Mauricio to be the primary caregiver to Sofia and Lucas and juggling hospital visits to support Ani and Oli.
Unable to work and unsure of how he would provide for his young family, Mauricio leaned on the ASRC’s services for support. With our help we were able to provide food for the family, healthcare and medication for Ani, and other essentials like Myki travel, affording the family the chance to be together whilst Ani remains in hospital.
Every week, Mauricio, Lucas and Sofia visit our Footscray Home of Hope and do their weekly grocery shopping at the ASRC Foodbank. Ingredients for arepas, a Venezuelan staple dish, is a favourite for young Lucas and thanks to a culturally appropriate food selection it’s possible. It may seem small but enjoying a familiar dish is a welcome reminder of culture, family and tradition, something that brings comfort at this time of the year.
When the family visits the ASRC, they are also able to enjoy a free meal together at our Community Meals canteen. The children enjoy trying different foods and playing in the kids area and Mauricio is afforded a small amount of rest bite, having a meal prepared for the family, surrounded by a community of people who understand the fatigue that often comes with needing to be endlessly strong for your family.
“Even on the hard days I close my eyes and feel the peace because we are safe in this country, but it is not easy, not having enough food or an extra dollar. I hope I can work again one day.”
Having a full-wrap around service like that at the ASRC means that refugees and people seeking asylum can be supported as individuals, each service tailored to their required needs. From groceries and healthcare, extending right through to housing, legal, employment and social work support, everything is available under one roof.
Through your support, we can help to restore a little hope this season into the lives of people like Mauricio. Hope for the health of their family, the safety of their children and a community that comes together during times of need.
Leave a reply