When thousands of Afghan refugees arrived in Melbourne with barely anything, church members stepped up
By Elspeth Kernebone
5 October 2021
CHURCH donations have fed and clothed thousands of Afghan refugees who arrived in Melbourne with almost nothing, a support worker says.
Many refugee families have left hotel quarantine in Melbourne with only the clothes in which they fled Afghanistan.
As these people wait for longer-term housing, Melbourne’s Anglican churches have been able to support them with clothing and other essentials.
Donors have been so generous that coordinating church Deep Creek Anglican has paused accepting goods, because it could not store any more.
But the church’s refugee and migrant community engagement facilitator Naomi Chua said these donations had been vital to fill the gap for refugees before government systems kicked in.
She said the sudden influx of refugees meant logistics had been tricky for government bodies, who were scrambling to catch up.
Ms Chua said most of the Afghan refugees arrived in Australia with only the clothes they were wearing, often the light summer clothes they had fled the country in.
“[These refugees] are the ones that got on some of the first flights out of Kabul, when the Taliban took over. Many of them were working for the Afghan government or for non-government organisations, or in some way connected to international organisations, which meant that they were of greater threat from the Taliban,” she said.
“Many of them came with literally just the clothes on their back. Some had time to pack a few things, but many just ran to the airport, and then they spent their eight days of travelling in the same clothes, and arrived in hotel quarantine.”
Ms Chua said so many donations had flooded in, she had been forced to press pause on accepting goods, apart from children’s clothes, socks, and prams and strollers, which were still in demand.
She said people could still give money to help support the refugees, who did not yet have access to any Centrelink payments. Financial donations were being converted into Aldi vouchers for families, she said.
Ms Chua said it was encouraging to see church members step up to support the refugees in practical ways, despite the limits of lockdown.
“It’s just been heartening to see the response. People really feel quite powerless, and really want to be able to do something,” she said.
“It’s been a real blessing to just come along and say ‘We’ve got all these people offering generously … what do you need? How can we help?’”
“There’s just been a whole lot of challenges along the way, but amazingly in the midst of all of that, people have got what they’ve needed.”
Ms Chua said All Saints Anglican Church in Greensborough and St Jude’s Anglican Church in Carlton had been among the churches involved.
Ms Chua said anyone wanting to donate money to support the Afghan refugees could do so through St Thomas’ Anglican Church in Burwood’s St Tom’ Hope Program, earmarking it for “Afghan refugees”. Hope | St Thomas’ Burwood (sttoms.org)
She said any churches wanting to get involved could contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.