Our history (so far)
We are individuals that are keen to establish a community beyond our group with the compassion and capacity necessary to welcome refugees in the Shire.
The Sutherland Shire Council reaffirmed it's commitment on 23 July 2018 (in a letter to a member of this group) to being a Refugee Welcome Zone and annually supporting Refugee Week:
"This is a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into our community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in our community."
The Sutherland Shire Refugee Welcome group first met at Gymea Community Aid and Information Service (GCAIS) on 14 June 2018 to hear Michael Aitken (founder of NBRI) present the Northern Beaches Refugee Initiative to us. He shared their successes and what they had learned with us and it was agreed that we should hold follow-up meetings.
NBRI initiative worked in conjunction with Settlement Services International (SSI), a community organisation and social business that assists new arrivals to find their place in Australia. SSRC has kept in close contact with SSI as we make our plans.
SSRC takes shape
For us to welcome refugees, a lot of organisation is required. And so we began a process of organising a group that can receive funding and community support.
We held follow-up meetings through the rest of 2018 and began to form a committee. The name of the group was agreed as Sutherland Shire Refugee Connection (SSRC) .
In 2019 we decided to become an Incorporated body and elected our initial office-bearers.
We received interest from adverts in The Leader, leading to a couple of new members joining the team. We began this website and a Facebook page mid year and began preparing policy and operational documents.
A half day STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors) Training was held in May to help us appreciate the difficulties many refugees and asylum seekers have faced. We plan to offer this workshop again at an appropriate time for those wanting to support new arrivals.
Also in May we were registered as an Incorporated Association and we opened a bank account in June.
On 28 June we organised a bus trip giving 20 refugees a tour of the Shire. This was a very enjoyable and educational day for all with visits to Loftus TAFE, a welcome at Sutherland library by Deputy Mayor Steve Simpson and lunch at Gunnamatta Bay Park. The Leader supported the day with articles before and afterwards.
In November we held our first Annual General meeting, with 15 people in attendance. Office-bearers elected were:
President: Amy Lesleighter
Vice President: Rob Lindsay
Secretary: Gillian Minto
Treasurer: Rishi Dhillon
2020 - an interesting year
2020 hasn't turned out as anyone expected. SSRC has had to meet online, and due to Covid-19 no refugees are arriving.
But we have continued to work towards the time when we will be able to welcome new arrivals again, by finalising our organisation. So we have been raising funds, and developing procedures to guide volunteers in how to support refugees appropriately.
We look forward to the time when all this hard organisational work pays off and we welcome and support our first refugees as they settle in the Sutherland Shire.