Newly arrived refugees in Australia are settling into new communities. With the help of teams of volunteers, refugees are connecting with services they may not otherwise be able to access.
In Armidale, 30 volunteers give their time two days a week at the English as an Additional Language or Dialect Homework Centre. Here they help students from non-English speaking backgrounds, many newly settled refugees, with learning support and homework assistance.
In Newcastle, volunteer driving instructors teach newly settled refugees how to drive. This helps them gain greater freedom and confidence, and to participate and feel more welcome in their new home.
After Geoffrey Nattrass retired as a technology high-school teacher he searched for volunteering opportunities at a local expo in Newcastle. He became a volunteer driving supervisor with Northern Settlement Services. Geoffrey had never worked with newly arrived refugees and migrants – particularly those who had little grasp of the English language.
He had to overcome his own lack of awareness of people from very different cultural backgrounds and the complexity of their faith and culture. For some refugee women this included the barrier of being in a small space with a man they had not met before.
Over the past 12 months alone, Geoffrey has helped six Syrian women gain their driver’s license. He has also helped many newly settled Afghan refugees who worked as interpreters with the Australian Army during the war; And refugees from Sri Lanka and the Sudan.