On Tuesday, our Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia team came together to discuss all the work that we are doing in the refugee sector from providing direct support to people seeking asylum over to advocating for positive change. It is with pride that we listen to each other and hear what we are all doing to fulfill the JRS mission of accompanying, serving and advocating for refugees, people seeking asylum and other forcibly displaced people.
Some of the JRS team serve and accompany people in need at our Community Space in Westmead and at our Women’s Space in Parramatta.
Others from the JRS team advocate in the community and on all political levels to promote policies of welcome and protection. The demand for services provided by our front-line staff is incredibly high and has continued growing.
Pictured here is our JRS Casework team. We are all proud of them. In the most punitive of political climates, our JRS Caseworkers serve and accompany refugees and people seeking asylum. Our Caseworkers talked about the main issues that they are seeing at our Westmead Community Space.
The need for crisis support is real with many instances of self harm, suicide risk and mental health problems.
Responding to the demand is very difficult with about 42 new referrals coming in each week. The team are deeply concerned that they can only manage to see about 30 people which causes a backlog.
Our Caseworkers are also seeing a rise in demand from survivors of domestic violence and from older people who feel isolated. The fear of destitution and homelessness is constant, and our JRS front-line team are always desperately trying to come up with ways to prevent this from happening to their clients and to ensure that they can live dignified lives.
Pictured here is Sister Margaret Guy RSC (our JRS Volunteers Coordinator) with Maeve Brown (Manager of the JRS Westmead Community Space). As one of the longest serving JRS team members, Sr Margaret’s insights are invaluable. She spoke about the changing face of JRS’ workload due to Australia’s increasingly punitive political climate.
Sr Margaret has watched the demand on our Caseworkers grow and how — despite working incredibly hard — they struggle to meet the demand that comes through the door.
“Today, there were 592 people (representing over 1200 individuals and family members) on JRS’ Foodbank list,” said Sr Margaret. This is just one of the ways that JRS serves people seeking asylum and their families. Even with these pressures, our JRS team strives to remain positive and say they feel honoured to serve the wonderful, resilient and talented people that walk through the doors of the JRS Community Spaces.
Via the work of our frontline staff, including our Caseworkers, Employment Coordinator, our Community Development Coordinator and the wonderful staff at our Women’s Space, people are indeed helped and assisted. We do have good news stories of families being able to move forward, and through us, our clients say they have found a place of welcome, support, and protection.
But JRS are always acutely aware that policies MUST change and move towards dignity and humanity. Repeatedly, the United Nations has been forced to criticise Australia for inhumane policies impacting people seeking protection.
Each day, our JRS front-line team are faced with REAL stories of struggle from people who simply seek a life of safety. Injustice is happening right here, in Australia. Throughout this year, JRS have heightened our advocacy efforts. We need to ensure that Australia exits one of the darkest chapters in our history, namely the way that our nation is currently treating people seeking protection. Read more about why advocacy is crucial to the JRS mission, here.
In case you missed it….
THE REAL STORY. Aslam’s story demonstrates it is essential for JRS to advocate for policies of welcome and protection. Read it HERE.