An Open Door to a Life of Hope & Belonging
MWIA is committed to supporting the House of Welcome which opens the door to a life of hope, dignity and belonging for people seeking asylum in Australia.
For some years now the House of Welcome has been bursting at the seams of the old butcher’s shop in Carramar, Sydney – case workers, clients, visitors and volunteers vied for a space, any space. So it was a great relief when the possibility of taking over the old convent in South Granville became a reality.
The opening of the new premises was an utterly joyous and totally communal affair. Sausage sizzles competed with amazing canapés conjured up by Rui, cupcakes and cups of tea from the Parish ladies, sandwiches and biscuits from all and sundry. Children of every nationality and religion raced around with balloons and students from the local Catholic high schools were gracious escorts to the arriving visitors.
Bishop Long, introducing himself as a “queue jumping bishop”, spoke of his own journey as a boat person from Vietnam and his sojourn in a camp before coming to Australia, “I am one of you” he said. He stressed the importance of welcome in the title House of Welcome. Catholic communities, he said, must be communities of hospitality and welcome.
Brian Brown, actor and refugee advocate, talked of that basic Australian value – the fair go. Helping out, he said, is part of our DNA and it is important that the community get behind a welcome to refugees and asylum seekers.
The official opening ended with an African drummer, former refugee and now Australian citizen, expressing his gratitude to the House of Welcome and leading some child dancers and drummers with wonderful African rhythms. He soon had all the audience clapping and moving to his drumming.
“To have a place where they know they can come and feel welcome”, said St Francis Social Services CEO, Lyn Harrison, “makes a huge difference for people.”
The new centre has 12 offices for counselling and case work, space for English classes and an area for community gatherings.
After such a wonderful day it was so distressing to hear, that evening, that Mr. Dutton was withdrawing financial and accommodation support from around 100 asylum seekers who had been sent from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment. In response to this real threat of destitution the House of Welcome has joined with Jesuit Refugee Service, Asylum Seekers Centre and RACS to crowdfund support for these beleaguered people.
Pope Francis has left us in no doubt as to our responsibility for welcoming and caring for those who seek protection from violence and persecution: “We are all complicit in the suffering of refugees if we stand by and remain silent.”
Words: Co-Founder House of Welcome, Libby Rogerson ibvm