Welcoming incoming Ukrainian refugees requires community support

21 Apr 2022

By Amanda Murthy

A couple poses on a bench outside destroyed apartments in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 18, 2022, during the Russian war. Photo: CNS/Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters.

The Archdiocese of Perth West Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (WACMRO) have set up a Ukrainian Refugee Local Appeal to aid war affected families upon their arrival in Australia during the coming months.

The appeal will be used to supplement the efforts of the Red Cross Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) – an Australian Government supported program (In New South Wales, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory) that assists refugees to establish themselves in their first 12 months in the country.

According to an ABC News report published on 28 March, more than 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees have left the country, with Australia preparing to welcome hundreds of refugees in the coming weeks.

WACMRO Director Deacon Greg Lowe said he is confident that the Archdiocese of Perth has the social capital to reach out to newly arrived persons from Ukraine.

“The reason is because so many of its members were once new arrivals themselves. They know what it is like to be ‘a stranger in a foreign land’ (Ex 2: 22),” Dcn Greg said.

“The HSP will go a long way to settling those newly arrived on 600 visas, but assistance will be needed in the coming months around simple things that can often be overlooked initially. For example, funding for student multi-riders, school uniform and stationery, and transport to health appointments.”

A man pulls a cart of wood alongside a woman and girl as they pass destroyed buildings in the port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, April 14, 2022, during the Russian war. Photo: CNS /Alexander Ermochenko, Reuters.

Through the HSP, the newly arrived will be assisted with setting up their new homes, learn about their new communities, connect to local services like Medicare, schools and other community networks, improve their English, learn new skills, and be linked with job and volunteering opportunities.

Collaborating with other Catholic groups, WACMRO will work with St Vincent de Paul to set up an emergency food and clothes process, Centacare to conduct possible conversational English classes and Fr Ihor Holovko from the Ukrainian Catholic community in Maylands.

WACMRO is seeking financial donations to be used for purchase of vehicles, payment of overseas driver licenses into English, school uniforms, school stationery and textbooks, and personal electronic devices.

“With the help of the community, offering concrete, practical support at the local level is doable – it just needs a bit of coordination and goodwill. And that is what the church is good at.

WACMRO have consistently worked to promote the acceptance and settlement of migrants and refugees into Australia. They support migrants and refugees in a manner that upholds their dignity to enable them to feel a sense of welcome and belonging in the parish and broader community.

This includes, the Welcoming Parish Initiative, launched in 2020 – A parish improvement and faith-in-action plan designed to be adapted to welcome the newcomer and serve the vulnerable person from any marginalised, minority group and seven sessions discussing the topic of Cultural Competency are currently being held online (between 23 March and 15 June).

For more information contact Grace Kurniawan at wacmro@perthcatholic.org.au or 08 9220 5950.

For more information on WACMRO’S initiatives go to http://www.wacmro.perthcatholic.org.au/