- Article by Tili Bensley-Nettheim
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre [ASRC] is building a new hub in the heart of Dandenong to better support and empower people seeking asylum in the region.
Greater Dandenong is recognised as Australia’s most culturally diverse region with over 157 different nationalities and is now home to the highest population of people seeking asylum in Victoria.
Without work rights and with no access to Government safety nets like Medicare and Centrelink, many people seeking have no way to live independently in the community and rely on the ASRC as one of their only lifelines.
While the ASRC’s original “Home of Hope” in Footscray supports more than 6,000 people seeking asylum each year, there is no similar service operating in the South-East region that can effectively support people with all of their individual needs under one roof.
Much like a local neighbourhood village, the ASRC’s new Dandenong Hub will bring together multiple service organisations under the one roof, creating a one-stop-shop of support services for people seeking asylum.
“Our dream is to create a place that feels like home – a safe and welcoming place where people come to learn, grow, socialise and connect with their local community”, says Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO and founder of the ASRC.
Thanks to an innovative partnership approach, the ASRC’s Dandenong Hub will be a place that people can depend upon for both their daily and long-term needs including legal advice, English classes and education programs, ASRC Foodbank as well as daily community meals, employment support, casework, housing support and access to a health clinic.
“This new Hub is our most ambitious project to date. We’re partnering with sector-leading building groups to create a purpose-designed space and taking a new collaborative approach to service delivery, that will provide people seeking asylum with the help they have told us they need most, in a single location,” says Abiola Ajetomobi, ASRC director and project lead.
The ASRC has brought together thirteen corporate pro bono partners to help with the build including renowned architects Bates Smart and Garner Davis Architects, while the ASRC will partner with SisterWorks, WAYSS Housing, Springvale Neighbourhood House and Monash Health to help deliver services.
“We’re lucky to be involved in this project as a way of helping on a basic human level and that makes it a project that you feel something for,” says Terry Mason, associate director at Bates Smart.
“When we get this space working, the support that the ASRC is able to provide to the community is immense, that’s why we are involved.”
The ASRC will continue to provide education, employment and empowerment programs that help people to live independently and realise their dreams in Australia as well as legal aid and support with food.
The facade of the building will feature mural artwork from renowned Melbourne contemporary visual artist Ash Keating.
The ASRC does not accept any Federal Government funding, they are relying on the support of the community to help complete the building so this essential service can start operations by early next year.
“Your support is so critical to ensuring people seeking asylum have the dignity, respect and vital services they need to live independently and call Australia home,” says Ajetomobi.
Donations to the ASRC’s ‘Building Hope’ Appeal can be made here.
Earlier this year, hundreds of architecture studios across Australia offered their services free of charge to communities affected by the recent bushfires as part of the Architects Assist initiative.
Lead photo by Sam Biddle. Courtesy of Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.