On 22nd November, JRS opened its doors to our new drop-in centre in Westmead! The Opening was a joyous occasion. Dancers, guests, families, laughter, supporters and friends all gathered together to bless our new home.
It’s been a huge journey.
Our Westmead centre is a large space that will allow JRS to complete its important — and ever-expanding — mission to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugee, people seeking asylum, and other forcibly displaced people.
As of today, JRS now has three offices based in Sydney; including Westmead, Kings Cross and Parramatta. Our location in Westmead will host hugely successful drop-in services, casework support, emergency relief, legal clinics, foodbank, employment program and education and social support.
About Arrupe: The Journey to Westmead.
In 2015, JRS began to shift its services in order to better support the large number of people seeking asylum living on the margins in Western Sydney. Thanks to the generosity of the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta, we were able to establish Arrupe Place based at Coolock Cottage in Parramatta.
Arrupe Place quickly became known as a safe space where people seeking protection could access the many services and support-networks needed to rebuild their lives. One woman described it as, “My mother’s house.”
Originally, the Arrupe Project supported about 1500 people and was intended only as a short-term response to people in need.
Unfortunately, inhumane government policies have forced people seeking asylum into “legal and practical limbo” putting their lives on hold. And quite quickly, JRS realised that our numbers were growing and we had to expand.
By 2016, the Arrupe Project doubled in size and operated from two locations based in Parramatta.
For three years, JRS staff and volunteers have proudly provided people seeking asylum with specialist casework support, emergency relief, a food bank, employment support, English classes, legal clinics, and many other social support programs. In 2017, over 3000 people were supported.
The seeds for our new home were planted this year.
In 2018, the Marist Brothers offered to JRS the possibility of relocating our services to their residence in Westmead. Whilst the site would remain a residence for the Brothers, a section of the residence would become a community-centre space.
We would like to take the opportunity of thanking the Marist Brothers for their generosity.
The new Westmead centre will allow JRS to support even more community-based services for people seeking asylum. Programs such as playgroup, “cooking together”, arts and crafts, dance, yoga, gardening, and a variety of other new activities will take place in our new centre.
Pictured below: Carolina Gottardo, JRS Australia Director (top) and Maeve Brown, Arrupe Project Manager (bottom) launch the new JRS centre in Westmead as well as the opening of the new Women’s Space in Parramatta.
“The space in Westmead is such a gift. We now have the opportunity to facilitate more participant-led programs that would not have been possible in our smaller spaces in Parramatta,” said Maeve Brown, the Arrupe Project Manager.
But, Parramatta will still be a home for the JRS community. We are proud to launch…..
A New Women’s Space in Parramatta!
This year, JRS Australia successfully secured funding through WomenNSW for a project called “Finding Safety.”
This is a new prevention and advocacy project focusing on working with refugee and asylum seeking women survivors or at risk of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) through information sessions, training, leadership and self-led advocacy. The project will also provide a safe women’s-only space, based in the Sisters of Mercy Cottage in Parramatta.
Our JRS Australia, Carolina Gottardo has highlighted the importance of the new location. “Thanks to the generosity of the Marist Brothers, we are absolutely delighted and blessed to have opened our new centre in Westmead to provide increased support to refugees and people seeking asylum in Western Sydney.”
‘At the same time, we are thrilled to stay in Parramatta for our new women’s-only space for women seeking asylum survivors or at risk of SGBV. Women seeking asylum and refugee women face multiple layers of discrimination on the grounds of their sex, race and migration and/or their asylum status,” said Ms Gottardo.
‘However they are extremely resilient and they are agents of change. Our project will support them to self-advocate and is focused towards support and prevention efforts to combat SGBV,” Ms Gottardo continued.
The JRS Mission
With so much change happening, we are acutely aware that we will not be able to fully support everyone who comes through our door due to the constantly shifting and increasingly punitive government policies targeting those seeking protection. But, to be able to listen, to accompany, to provide casework support, or space for participant-led activities, or even a quiet and safe place to sit for a while, means so much to so many.
We look forward to what else may develop from our new drop-in centre and our partnership with the Marist Brothers and our continued work with the Sisters of Mercy as part of the Finding Safety project. We hope that each space will continue to be a space of accompaniment, hospitality, agency and solidarity with the people we serve.
And we’re off to a good start with one man stating;
“You come here with your problems, with poor health, with sadness, and when you’re here you feel it’s a good place. You leave, you feel happy. You smile.”
Pictured above: The JRS Community comes together for our opening in Westmead.