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The City of Sydney brings new hope for refugees

It is rare to hear these days of projects in Australia which bring hope to refugees. However, the City of Sydney is doing just that.

Settlement Services Internation will run W2Sydney Photo: supplied
Settlement Services Internation will run W2Sydney Photo: supplied

The City will provide $100,000 in cash and other support that will link newly arriving refugees with locals and a program of social, cultural and recreational activities to introduce them to their new home and city.

“Welcome to Sydney” (W2Sydney) is a volunteer-based program that will engage 20 City of Sydney residents as ambassadors to introduce refugees and their families to Sydney through activities such as walking tours and ferry trips, visits to free and low cost facilities, cultural venues and events and shared meals in unique locations.

The project will be delivered by Settlement Services International (SSI) in partnership with the City. SSI is a NSW-based not-for-profit humanitarian settlement organisation that provides case management and housing support and information for newly arrived refugees.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said City staff would help recruit community volunteers and identify appropriate activities, events and venues for those taking part.

“Sydney has been a refugee welcome zone since 2005 and we know that people in our community want to do more to make sure newly arrived refugees feel welcome when they arrive,” the Lord Mayor said. “Receiving a warm welcome can make all the difference when it comes to settling into a new culture and integrating into Australian society in the longer term.”

SSI CEO, Violet Roumeliotis, said: “How we are welcomed by our new neighbours, workmates or the broader community when we arrive in a new environment, remains with you for the rest of your life and colours your sense of being a valued member of the community.”

SSI has an established volunteer training and linkages program with a team of more than 200 volunteers.In 2015/2016 it assisted more than 8,600 refugees, humanitarian entrants and people seeking asylum in NSW.

Those of us who live in the City of Sydney and surrounds can, indeed, celebrate this unique initiative for social justice and compassion.

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