The Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) has been advocating for the introduction of a community refugee sponsorship program in Australia, which would enable ordinary Australians to sponsor refugees from overseas. The federal government is currently reviewing its refugee sponsorship policies and we are hopeful that a suitable federal program could be available next year. While COVID-19 has significantly curtailed international travel, governments and international organisations such as UNHCR and IOM are working to ensure that refugee resettlement can resume as soon as possible in a way that is safe for all.
But there is plenty that we can do right now to get ready for a new era of welcoming refugees to our shores. To this end CRSI, along with a number of key partners, is launching a Group Mentor Program and we are looking for mentor groups to join us on this journey as the trailblazers for a new era of community sponsorship in Australia.
We appreciate that many people are already supporting refugees and asylum seekers in a variety of ways, but this project is a bit different so please read on.
Those who participate will be first in line to receive a $5,000 grant from the Sidney Myer Fund (administered via CRSI) to help them sponsor a refugee from overseas once a suitable federal program is in place.
This small program will pair up to 12 local community groups from across Australia with refugees already in Australia who would benefit from receiving practical support right now.
Mentor groups would:
- help us test and refine a comprehensive sponsor training package which has been developed by Canadian experts and others at the forefront of programs in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere
- assist a refugee individual or family in a variety of ways which may include help with orientation in your local community, help finding work, assistance with education and homework or addressing other specific needs, with access to back-up advice from a settlement agency
- allow us to follow your progress in supporting a refugee individual or family over a six month period, so that we can highlight the triumphs and also understand and cater for the likely challenges that a future sponsorship program might face.
If you are interested in sponsoring refugees to your local community, we hope you will consider this opportunity.
What sort of people are needed?
We are looking for everyday Australians from across the country (whether from metropolitan, regional or rural communities) interested in forming refugee mentor groups with others in their local community to support refugees. Together you will support a refugee individual or family who are either already living in your local community or who plan to move there. CRSI will provide support and advice, and will also connect you with other organisations that can assist you.
What are the commitments?
- Form a group of at least five people in your community keen to provide practical support to refugees
Undergo internationally-developed sponsor training and basic vetting
- Be paired with a refugee individual or family and provide holistic practical support to them for a six month period, starting in October
- Allow us to follow your group’s progress
- Be open to sponsoring a refugee from overseas in 2021 (with access to $5,000 in seed funding from the Sidney Myer Fund, via CRSI)
Your group should comprise at least five people but it could be much larger and will ideally include people with a range of different skills and networks.
The mentorship commitment will be for six months, starting in October 2020. Mentor group members are likely to need to put in a few hours of time per week, depending on the needs of the refugee family. Groups should also be prepared to raise a small amount of money (eg $1,000- $3,000) to provide your group with some funds that you can use to help the person you are mentoring if needed, but also to help CRSI to understand what local fundraising methods work best in this context.
We are also hoping to document this experience and learn from you about what works best to support refugees. Along the journey, we will touch base with you and your group and learn from your experience and knowledge. This will help us refine and promote a future sponsorship program but your privacy and that of the people you support will be respected.
Be among the first groups to sponsor a refugee family from overseas in 2021
CRSI and many others are advocating for the adoption of new federal policy settings that would enable community groups to sponsor refugees to Australia from overseas, inspired by the Canadian program. We hope to see the necessary policy changes implemented in 2021, following the government’s current review of its flawed private sponsorship program. The approach we are advocating for would involve sponsor groups committing to provide 12 months of practical settlement support as well as cover the main financial needs of the refugee/family in their first 12 months in Australia as a way of supplementing the traditional government-funded resettlement program. You can find out more about what we are proposing by reading our Sponsorship Explainer.
By having already participated in this mentor program, your group will be well prepared to be one of Australia’s first sponsor groups under a future federal program. You will also be first in line to receive $5,000 in ‘seed funding’ from the Sidney Myer Fund (via CRSI) to go towards the funds that your group would need to raise under a federal sponsorship program (subject to implementation of new policy settings and other conditions – available to 12 groups only).