By Felicity Costigan, CEO Melbourne Anglican Foundation.
7 April 2022 // Sponsored
THE demonstrators outside Melbourne’s now notorious Park Hotel, (the unhappy destination for some of the maritime arrivals to our shores), wave placards that read messages like, Jesus Was A Refugee. It’s not a new message, and yet still, many in our wealthy community, simply don’t understand nor appreciate the importance of welcoming those who genuinely flee persecution to seek asylum in Australia.
Dr. David Penman, former Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne and Founder of the Melbourne Anglican Foundation, believed that as Christians, it is our responsibility to reach out to new migrant communities and embrace and assist them to thrive and develop into engaged communities in Victoria.
To address this very issue, the Melbourne Anglican Foundation in partnership with Revd. Mark Durie, Revd. Kaveh Hassanzadeh and Revd Hoda Ameri from the Emmanuel Iranian Anglican Church in Dandenong and Brimbank, were successful in winning a grant of over $130k from the Victorian Government’s Multicultural COVID Taskforce, to assist families in need in the Farsi speaking communities in Melbourne.
“The project aimed to assist families in the Farsi Speaking Community in Victoria who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially those who are not eligible for any COVID-19 related financial support due to their visa status, and who may have lost their jobs and who therefore, are struggling to put food on their table,” says Revd Hassanzadeh. “In total, we were able to reach approximately 10,230 people in the wider Farsi speaking community, including Moslem families from Afghanistan and Bahai families from Iran.”
“We also aimed to address mental health issues during the pandemic for the people in the community who are unable to afford mental health support. Additionally, the need for education of communication and computer skills in the Farsi Speaking Community have become especially necessary after the pandemic,” he says.
As maritime arrivals to Australia from Iran, both Kaveh and Hoda are well aware of the trauma, distress and anxiety the shocking and often disastrous journeys asylum seekers endure to escape persecution in their home countries. They are also aware of the exemplary contribution these people can make to their new homes.
“Many families and individuals suffer from extreme isolation and find it difficult to access support. Through the project we learnt of many additional needs and the depth of pain and suffering across the community and the problems families and individuals have in settling in Australia. We believe the Victorian State Government and its employees need to be aware of these needs,” Revd Hassanzadeh says.
“As a result of delivering this project, we learnt more about the extent of need in the Farsi speaking community in Victoria, specifically the need of medical, psychological, and pastoral support in the community has significantly increased for families who were impacted by the pandemic and receive limited support due to their visa status.”
The project ranged all over metropolitan Melbourne, from Dandenong, Keilor, Pakenham to Geelong, Brimbank and St. Albans. Here is just some of the tasks they completed with the project.
- Delivered six sessions of computer training classes
- Delivered a total of 351 culturally appropriate food kits to 351 families
- Covered 74 psychologist appointments
- Translated 1,137 COVID-19 vaccine communication materials and brochures in Farsi
- Distributed 1550 masks and 36 hand sanitisers.
While the situation has improved since the beginning of 2022, according to Revd Kaveh and Hoda, there is still a lot of distress, anxiety and pain in these communities. “We still have so much more work to do,” Kaveh says.
For More Information Contact:
CEO Melbourne Anglican Foundation