August 14, 2013
Burmese refugee and mother Tial, pictured with her family, has received a lot of help from St Kilda Mums. Picture: Glenn Daniels Source: News Limited
AS THE asylum-seeker debate rages on the eve of the Federal Election, local charities are struggling to help those left in limbo by the Labor Government’s shifting policies.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Project’s Pamela Curr said while Prime Minister Kevin Rudd touted Labor’s plan to settle refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, those living in Melbourne under Labor’s harsh “no advantage” policy faced destitution.
Under that policy thousands of asylum seekers who arrived by boat between last August and July 19 live in Melbourne on bridging visas, and are banned from working while they wait for their claims to be processed.
“Our job is to make sure they’re not forgotten,” said Ms Curr.
“A lot of them have little children and the mums are pregnant … That’s whereSt Kilda Mums have been a blessing.”
Ms Curr reported finding pregnant women sleeping on floors of bare houses with no working electricity, so a cot, pram, blankets and baby clothes from the St Kilda Mums were a godsend.
Ms Curr said families were battling to survive on about $200 a week – 89 per cent of the Newstart allowance.
This is their maximum entitlement under the policy enacted last year by Labor in a bid to deter boat arrivals.
Ms Curr said the first six months were toughest for families left to fend for themselves in the private rental market after their time in transitional housing ran out.
“The government pays their first month’s rent and bond, then that money is pulled out of their payment over the next 20 weeks,” she said.
With rents even in outer Melbourne tipping $1200 a month, this meant families spent the first six months living on next to nothing.
“People are really living below the poverty line,” she said.
Non-profit organisations like hers, and Albert Park’s Brigidine Sisters, have to fill in the gaps.
Sister Brigid Arthur said with “no structured way” of linking asylum seekers with support services; it was up to the nuns to trace families scattered throughout the community.
“We visit detention centres and then stay in touch when they go into transitional housing,” Sister Arthur said, adding that of St Kilda Mums: “I couldn’t speak more highly.”
Meanwhile, the tally for our Cots for Tots campaign now stands at 75 almost halfway to our target of 200.
Staff at Il Fornaio cafe in Acland St donated a new cot and change table from proceeds from a recent face-painting fundraiser.
Leader reader Georgina was among those who donated $140 for a new cot by cheque.
“I make a weekly donation to a good cause, the St Kilda Mums have got mine,” reader Rod Williams posted online.
DONATE go to givenow.com.au/stkildamumscotsfortots, St Kilda Mums is a registered charity and donations of $2 and over are tax-deductible.
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