Oliver White, Maeve Brown and the JRS Australia team with Arrupe Place partners.

JRS has been awarded the ‘Exceptional Community Partnership in a LGA’ at the 2016 Zest Awards presented at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park last night.

“This has been a truly collaborative process,” said Maeve Brown co-ordinator of Arrupe Place of the award which recognised the project’s “capacity building, advocacy and leadership.”

“This award is a testament to our exceptional partners who provide us with the great support that helps Arrupe Place work,” she said.

Ms Brown said that Arrupe Place had been established by the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in 2015 to provide a welcoming space for those people seeking asylum in need of essential services in Western Sydney.

JRS partnered with 8 other organisations to provide these services at Arrupe Place. Those include the Red Cross, Refugee and Casework Service (RACS), the Sisters of Mercy, Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), Training for Change, Sisters of the Good Samaritans, the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta and the Sisters of Charity. As well as two other partners, STARTTS and Baker & McKenzie who have provided free support for asylum seekers with civil law issues.

“We were drawn together with the common goal of providing a safe haven that allows asylum seekers to live with dignity and become self-sufficient whilst waiting for their claims for protection to be assessed,” said Ms Brown.

The ZEST Awards, led by Western Sydney Community Forum, were established six years ago to showcase the work of the Community Sector in Greater Western Sydney region. They are designed to highlight the range and diversity of the community work which promotes a positive image of the region.

“Arrupe Place ensures that accessing support is easier and less stressful for those most in need by housing our many varied services in this one location in Parramatta,” said Ms Brown.

“We are able to offer a range of services from English language and cooking classes to food provision and legal aid, as well as most importantly, offering a sense of community.

“Asylum seekers can drop into the cottage provided by the Sisters of Mercy, receive legal advice from RACS, employment support from Training for Change, arts and playgroup programs from ICE, even emergency aid from the Red Cross as well as a cup of tea and a chat with our JRS caseworkers.”

Ms Brown said that Arrupe Place assisted over 1,500 people seeking asylum in 2015. RACS has run 38 Legal Clinics and information sessions, providing legal advice.

“It is wonderful to see such a great project winning the recognition it deserves,” said Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, Executive Director of RACS. “JRS is a great partner to work with.”

Over 100 individuals and families with young children have received emergency financial assistance from Red Cross. A Sister of the Good Samaritan social worker leads the team of JRS caseworkers, providing guidance and support. A Volunteer Coordinator from the Sister of Charity coordinates and supports more than 50 volunteers who have made 33 home visits. Volunteers from the local community ran over 100 English classes, providing valuable language tuition to 78 people. Close to 300 people supplemented their weekly groceries with fresh vegetables and key staples.

“Most importantly, asylum seekers visiting Arrupe Place have a place where they feel safe and less isolated, and where they can access programs that have led to increased participation in the local community,” said Ms Brown.


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