AUSTRALIA has attracted its
fair share of international media outrage over its asylum policies
and practice. Nevertheless, the country does operate a Community
Detention programme, providing a community-based alternative to
Through the programme,
asylum-seekers who are technically in immigration detention are
placed in houses run by charities contracted by the Department of
Immigration, and live embedded in various communities.
"It's another good alternative
to immigration detention, but it's something that the Department is
moving away from, and there are less available community detention
properties," the manager of the Sanctuary programme, Jason
In the state of Victoria,
Baptcare - the welfare arm of the Baptist Union of Victoria -
decided to provide its own community-based support
to asylum-seekers who would otherwise be left
destitute, "as an expression of mission," Mr Perdriau
In 2008, an old nursing home in
Brunswick, a northern suburb of Melbourne, was bought and converted
to house 28 male asylum-seekers who would otherwise be destitute.
"We've been operating that as a transitional
supported-accommodation facility since then, for asylum-seekers who
were were previously homeless."
In 2012, Baptcare converted a
second property as part of the Sanctuary programme, also a
former nursing home, in the suburb of Preston, which now houses 44
male asylum-seekers and one family (in a three-bed family
THE charity's main clients are
asylum-seekers who are not permitted to work, and are not eligible
for any government support - including those applying for a
judicial review, or for ministerial intervention - after an
initial refusal of their application.
Just over 50 per cent of rooms
at each site are allocated to asylum-seekers who are without any
source of income, the rest to those who receive a government income
in the primary stage of their asylum claim.
Although funded places help to
subsidise those without an income, many funded asylum-seekers are
also in need because they receive a low-level of government
support. "It's currently 89 per cent of what single people receive
on benefits; so many struggle to pay for rent and food, etc. But
most people we take with an income also have some pretty serious
support needs, and that is the reason why we take them," Mr
Each site has a tenancy worker,
who looks after the property and health and safety. There are also
case workers, besides a pastoral care worker on site. At each
property there is a foodbank that all residents can access; and,
for those with no income, monthly supermarket food vouchers are
provided, as well as public transport top-ups.
A high level of support is
available from the on-site case-workers, who seek to help each
resident to get a fair decision on his or her asylum claim. "With
primary clients, the case worker will help to establish an
individual case plan designed to meet their needs and goals.
"The case worker will work with
them on health, legal, and educational issues, and on being part of
the community, and being able to access services outside, that are
important to the client. They will have set times to sit and work
on those issues with them."
RESIDENTS with government
support are being helped by organisations, such as the Red Cross,
that have government contracts to work with people in the primary
stages of their claim. For these residents, Sanctuary's
case-workers are available to provide secondary incidental
case-work and referrals.
"We've made a decision not to
go for those government contracts because of the conditions and the
model of care that needs to be employed in order to get those
"There's a large number of
people in the community who aren't able to access those services,
and those contracts mean that clients need to be cut off, often at
the point when they most need assistance: so, when somebody gets
that negative decision and is still seeking a review."
The weakness in Baptcare's
Sanctuary model, therefore, Mr Perdriau says, is that funding is
always an issue. Their current programme costs around $A1,000,000
per year [CHK], and funds come largely from trusts and fund-raising
Baptcare, however, is working
with churches in the Melbourne area on a new initiative, Houses of
Hope, through which it hopes to increase provision without the need
for capital investment by focusing on expansion through
partnerships, and by co-ordinating community support.
"I'm meeting with churches
currently. We're trying to identify houses that churches can use
for mission purposes as supported housing for asylum seekers."
While it is hoped that churches, or congregation members, will
provide suitable properties, Baptcare will oversee utility and
property management, and one of two new partner agencies - Lentara
Uniting Care and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (the largest
asylum-seeker advocacy, aid, and health organisation in Australia)
- will provide case management.
Churches in Melbourne are also
providing groceries for the foodbanks, and will soon be involved in
a new initiative to provide volunteers to assist residents with
community integration, English language, and work-experience
"Baptist Care Australia, the
umbrella body for all Baptist care organisations, has a very strong
asylum policy, and Baptist Care South Australia has an
asylum-seeker support programme," Mr Perdriau says. As yet,
however, the holistic model of community-based asylum support
developed by Baptcare in Victoria has yet to be replicated by any
of the other Baptist care organisations.