Refugees Welcome Australia opened its doors in January 2017, started by Byron Shire local Suus de Groot Heupner and four others across the country, and it aims to provide home-sharing accommodation to refugees and people seeking asylum.
They are currently operating out of Sydney and Brisbane and surrounding areas connecting refugees and asylum seekers with hosts that provide long-term housing arrangements, free of rent.
‘We connect refugees and people seeking asylum with spare rooms. We focus on spare rooms because we see value in people-to-people connections,’ said Suus.
However, they are interested to gauge the interest in the program from potential hosts in the Byron Shire region.
‘Because of the strong networks in the Byron region there is growing possibility to extend to this area.’
Hosts are asked to provide a minimum of three months to ensure a level of stability to the people being hosted.
‘What is most important is that people enter this kind of program with expectations that are in the interest of the person seeking assistance,’ continued Suus.
‘We find it important that, on the road to independence, the refugee or person seeking asylum is empowered. While this kind of willingness may be seen as an act of charity we acknowledge this kind of engagement is often mutually beneficial and the best matches are those where the hosts recognises this.’
Though there is a growing interest in people moving to regional areas a significant factor in this decision is employment with people most likely to relocate if there is an opportunity for work.
Refugees Welcome has now placed 22 people including a pregnant woman who recently gave birth.
Refugees and asylum seekers come from a range of countries including Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Congo (DRC), Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Bhutan, Iran, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia.
‘Our primary focus is on the host aspect,’ continued Suus.
‘Our online platform and the operations of our on the grounds team are designed to support the hosts from the moment we receive their application via our portal until the moment the resident moves out – and even after that!
‘We know that to open your home and family to a new member can be a change to your life so we try and identify and manage the expectations of the prospective hosts as best as we can with workshops and info sessions, guidelines and points to consider that are often overlooked before someone moves in.’
If you would like more information head to Refugees Welcome Australia. www.refugeeswelcome.org.au