Established in 2014, Trinity Aid For Refugees (TAR) seeks to provide support for asylum seekers and refugees. Its members comprise people from the four communities of Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads who are either members or friends of Holy Trinity Parish.
The work of TAR is a Christian response to the Gospel imperative to love thy neighbour, best articulated in Matthew 25:35:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
In its social justice teaching, the Catholic Church strongly supports the Gospel imperative to provide support to those most in need with successive Popes highlighting the need for the international community to support asylum seekers and refugees.
“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the cheeseboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire of knowing and having, but above all for being more”. Pope Francis
“To see Christ in every sister and brother in need, to proclaim and defend the dignity of every migrant, every displaced person and every refugee. In this way, assistance will not be considered as alms from the goodness of our hearts, but an act of justice due to them”. Pope St John Paul 11
The work of TAR is not restricted to people of Christian faith. Indeed, across Australia, many people respond to the needs of asylum seekers and refugees motivated by universal humanitarian values best encapsulated in the golden rule attributed to Confucius “do unto others as you would have them do to you”. To this end, TAR seeks to work in harmony with other support groups such as Queenscliff Rural Aid for Refugees, the Uniting Church, St James Anglican Parish, Grandmothers for Refugees, and Combined Refugee Action Group Geelong (CRAG).
TARs aims are:
- To provide practical support for asylum seekers and refugees through annual collections of groceries and shopping vouchers within the four communities
- To engage in advocacy to seek change in the policies of government and opposition political parties through letter writing and petitions.
- To liaise and support the activities of other like-minded groups.
Whilst not motivated or supportive of any individual political party, the focus of TAR is to change the policies of the two major political parties in Australia whose attitudes are similar particularly with respect to mandatory detention of boat arrivals in offshore centres.
Current issues which reflect a challenge to justice: (Updated September, 2022)
The Current Situation
Some positive steps have been taken under the new Commonwealth Government since its recent election. The Biloela family have been granted a protection visa (thanks to TAR people and parishioners who wrote to politicians regarding this family’s plight), a small number of people have been released into community detention, no further deportations have occurred, and the tone of dialogue about asylum seeker/refugee issues on the part of the government has improved.
However, there is still much to be achieved before this sorry episode in Australia’s history can be said to be over. The backlog of cases under consideration of people seeking asylum status remains very high (the vast majority of whom arrived by air).
Whilst exact figures are hard to confirm, community agencies that have the most direct contact with people seeking refugee status indicate:
- About 100,000 people in the community are asylum seekers
- Of these 65,000 are awaiting an application outcome
- Of these, 19,000 are here on TPVs or SHEVs. (Despite the governments election commitment, no published timeline exists for these people to be given permanent protection visas)
- About 30,000 applications have been rejected and are subject to deportation notices, although these have not occurred because they cannot be returned to their country of origin (usually because of inadequate proof of identity or because of civil turmoil within these countries).
- Over 2,000 applicants have no visas, no work rights, no Medicare, and lack access to Centrelink or social services.
- Of the group who arrived in Australia by boat after July 2013, 1175 people can never be settled in Australia (by government decree) and whilst waiting for a new country to accept them, remain in limbo.
(Statistics provided by the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project)
Community agencies report that the greatest current need for asylum seekers released into the community is accommodation. Thankfully, there have been instances of generous benefactors donating or offering reduced rental to some seeking accommodation. Similarly, community organisations have developed positive relationships with some real estate agents who are willing to consider applicants for leases, often backed by financial guarantees from community organisations, or in some cases with monthly rent being fully paid by the same community group.
Family groups of asylum seekers, many with young children, struggle to find appropriate health care, some struggle with mental health issues, and almost all, if allowed to be employed, experience insecure casual work.
As a country, we have a long way to go in resolving these pressing humanitarian issues.
TAR Grocery Collections
TAR grocery collections continue at the three Parish Mass centres. Collection dates are advertised in the weekly Parish notice sheet. Our continued thanks to parishioners who generously support this initiative which provides practical assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in the Geelong region. The list of suitable items for collection is posted at the bottom of this page.
Syrian Refugee Camps
This issue remains current with approximately 40 Australian children interned within Kurdish held refugee camps in Syria. The children are innocent victims of war when their mothers (either voluntarily or forcibly) followed their fathers from Australia into Syria and Iraq in their quest to become Islamic State fighters. Most of the fathers are now dead or imprisoned.
Repeated requests to the previous Australian Government to repatriate the mothers and children were not responded to on the grounds that the government does not wish to risk Australian lives in a rescue effort. Yet Australian media have accessed these families without security consequences and European nations such as Germany and Denmark have repatriated their families from the same camps without incidents. Some of the mothers interviewed by Australian media have offered to be monitored by security agencies if they are returned to Australia, but such offers have not been responded to.
The camps are tent cities in a harsh environment with little access to health services and no education programs. Occupants are reliant on NGOs for basic services.
A basic principle of justice is that children should not be punished for the deeds of their parents.
Keep up to date
One of the best sources of up to date information about asylum seeker and refugee information is contained in the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project (BASP) newsletter which can be found at:
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Want to help?
For information on where to donate groceries and vouchers contact Shirley Hurley:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 0409 424 243
For background information and advocacy contact Michael Doyle: