Our programs - FAQ

Check out frequently asked questions about CRSA’s programs, training and how community-led support for refugees works in Australia below. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact us at info@refugeesponsorship.org.au.

Group Mentorship Program FAQs

What is a mentor group?

A mentor group is a group of at least five individuals who live in the same geographic community and are in a community keen to provide practical support to refugees. The groups complete an internationally-developed training course and undergo basic application and screening process in preparation for providing this support. Mentor groups are made up of friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues – basically any group of Australians who feel they have the capacity to give time each week to helping a refugee newcomer.

Group members should come from more than one family or householdGCRSA recommends that groups should consist of a few different households to ensure that the group can keep supporting their refugee mentee household should any one mentor move away or become unable to continue their mentoring worksupport can continue should any unforeseen issues arise. Having a varied group of mentors will also provide your refugee mentee(s)assist with creating with the benefits that come with being able to access a broader network of support, knowledge, experience and expertise.

Your group might be attached to a local organisation such as a school, club or church (which we refer to as ‘Supporting Community Organisations’), or you might just be an informal group of friends or acquaintances.

Who can be part of a mentor group? What relevant skills/experience/networks does a mentor group need?

Any Australian citizen or permanent resident can join or form a mentor group if they feel they have the time and capacity to provide meaningful support to a refugee newcomer on a week-to-week basis. Before a mentor group can be matched with a refugee mentee/family each mentor group member will need to submit current police checks and Working with Children Checks to demonstrate that they are of good character.

Relevant skills, experience and networks include any personal, professional, business or community skills, experience or networks that could assist a refugee to settle and integrate into your community. These range from your English language ability, driving ability, IT skills or knowledge of community resources; to your lived (refugee or other), volunteer, work or business experience; to your housing, education, employment, health care, faith group, sporting club or other community connections. Think broadly about what a refugee might need, and what skills, experience and networks you might have to support them. You’ll be surprised at what you have to offer when you really think about it.

I’m an individual looking to get involved. How can I join a group?

The first step is to fill out our Expression of Interest form. In this form you can give CRSA permission to share your contact details with others in your local area who are either already a group, or looking to form one.

 You can also talk to friends, family, neighbours and colleagues about forming a group with you. If that doesn’t work, consider using our template facebook post, which can be found in the appendix of our information pack and also on our website. You can use this post on your personal page, or other local neighbourhood pages to help you find like-minded individuals to work with. Please be warned that you may receive some unpleasant phone calls or emails from individuals who do not currently share your views about refugees so use your own discretion in deciding if or how to use resource. But part of the exercise is changing local hearts and minds!

Should you require additional support to find a group, get in touch with Nicole Watkins at nicole.watkins@refugeesponsorship.org.au. Be sure to provide your phone number, postcode, and permission for us to share your contact details in the email! If we’re able, CRSA staff will put you in contact with others interested in the program nearby. We’ll then leave it up to you to contact one another to explore the possibility of working together as a mentor group.

What is the role of a mentor group?

Mentor Groups provide holistic and ‘whole of family’ settlement support to refugee households. Groups work with mentees to identify areas where support is needed, supplementing the support that is provided by any government-funded settlement services with the added elements of the extra time, social capital and networks, deep local knowledge and friendship that can be offered by a group of local members of the community. Mentor groups leverage their own local knowledge, networks, expertise and experience to help refugees achieve their personal goals and successfully integrate into their new community.

The following list outlines some of the things mentor groups provide support for:

  • Finding suitable employment
  • Securing suitable housing in a regional area with no migrant settlement services
  • Enrolling and better participation in education
  • Practicing English
  • Learning to drive
  • Understanding how to have overseas qualifications recognised
  • Establishing a small business
  • Accessing previously unknown local services
  • Making new friends
Who are the refugees that we would be supporting and how are we connected with them?

Mentees are refugee individuals or families who have arrived in Australia in recent years, who would benefit from additional support with their settlement. They are people who hold a refugee or humanitarian visa and can include people with temporary humanitarian visas like a TPV or SHEV. Mentees can be already located in the same area as mentor groups, or be looking to relocate to the community where a mentor group is based.

  • Mentees participating in the 2020/21 program were mostly looking for support with learning English, career development, and their studies and making social connections
  • Households can be made up of couples, siblings, family units and single adults
  • Mentees age range varies with family members aged from 0 to from newborn – 60+

If your group undertakes training and is keen to then be matched with a refugee mentee/family, CRSA will work with a variety of front-line organisations and networks to try to find a refugee mentee/family in need of extra support who is a good match for your group. This can be easy or challenging depending on a range of factors. For instance, if you live in an area where there are very few new migrant communities, it might be challenging to find a suitable match for your group. As a rule of thumb, we look for someone who is already living within a 20 minute drive of your group or who is keen to move to your area.

We ask that you be prepared to be active participants in this matching process as you, as locals, will often have greater access to local knowledge and information than we do! In some cases, matching your group with a refugee involves trying to find a refugee who is already contemplating a move to your area and then asking you to work with them to understand whether that move is right for them and find suitable housing and employment before they make the commitment of moving to your area.

What is a refugee visa? Which refugees will and will not be involved in the GMP?

A refugee visa is a visa granted, whether in or outside Australia, on the basis that the holder has recognised refugee needs (or ‘complementary protection’ needs) and is expected to settle in Australia. It includes offshore humanitarian (subclasses 200-204), Protection (subclass 866) and TPV/SHEV (subclass 785/790) visas. TPV/SHEV visas should be valid till at least 31 July 2022 so that the mentee and the mentor group can focus on the mentee’s settlement (relocation to a new Australian community) rather than visa reapplication.

The GMP will not match mentors with people in the process of seeking asylum in Australia, as they do not yet have recognised refugee or complementary-protection type needs and therefore may not be permitted to reside in Australia in the future. Individuals in this category are also likely to face day to day challenges beyond that which mentor groups involved in this program will be equipped to provide. The program will also not involve refugees who are living overseas as of 1 October 2020 or who are in detention (including refugees transferred from Nauru/PNG), as they cannot be expected to settle in Australia within the time frame of the GMP.

If you would like to help support someone seeking asylum or in detention and you don’t know how to do this, let us know and we can suggest a few established agencies who have programs that you could join.

 

For refugees early in their settlement journey, what are their needs and priorities likely to be?

This will vary depending on the refugee’s background, country of origin and whether they have come with family. Key priorities include long-term housing, education opportunities (school, tertiary education and English language), employment opportunities, physical/mental health needs and community participation and networking. One of the most important aspects helping them to build on their current strengths and capabilities, ensuring their own agency to navigate all the new systems in a new country and ultimately become as independent as every other Australian. Don’t assume that you know what refugees need.  Ask them and listen when they tell you.

What additional support might a refugee/household need that could be provided by a local mentor group?

The following table is provided to give you examples of settlement goals that your mentee/s might have and how you as a mentor group could help them achieve these:

Settlement goals (examples only)

Mentor activities to help achieve these
(examples only)

Improving English language proficiency

Help mentee(s) enrol in AMEP classes

Schedule weekly conversation practice, newspaper reading, etc with mentee(s)

Support for initial settlement in a new area

Take mentee(s) on a tour of your community to show them where to find the goods and services they might need

Accompany mentee(s) to appointments with local schools, banks, GPs, language schools to help them enrol, open accounts, etc

Help mentee(s) find an affordable rental property in the area

Assistance with engaging with school or tertiary education

Help kids with homework and/or engaging with online learning

Supply an additional device to enable a secondary school student to undertake their school work

Help parents and/or adult children obtain recognition of prior learning and/or research, apply for and organise funding for tertiary education

Finding employment

Give mentee(s) an overview of employment opportunities in your community

Help mentee(s) prepare a resume/CV and practice for interviews

Introduce mentee(s) to local employers you might know

Working successfully in a new job/role

Help mentee(s) acquire a drivers licence so that they can get to work independently

Help mentee(s) understand Australian workplace culture/practices/expectations that may be unfamiliar to them

Seeking to establish or grow a small business

Help mentee(s) research and apply for government/community business support programs

Help mentee(s) understand how they might market their business in your community

Social interaction and personal wellbeing

Introduce mentee(s) to individuals or organisations in your community with common interests (eg, religion, sport)

Complex family profile or physical/mental health needs

In a single-parent situation, help mentee apply for relevant government benefits and organise additional child care and general parenting support

In a disability situation, help mentee apply for relevant government benefits, find housing/transportation that is accessible and/or find employment/education opportunities that provide disability accommodation and support

 

How long do mentor groups have to provide support for?

Mentor groups are expected to commit to provide their refugee mentee/family with a minimum of 6 months practical support, which can be increased to 12 months if mutually desired.

Do mentor groups need to raise money to participate in the GMP and for what purpose?

The purpose of the fundraising is essentially to provide your mentor group with a budget to work with as you participate in the program. Your group will hold and control that money. You may decide to use some of these funds to help run a community event that benefits your mentee/s, or perhaps to purchase something that would really make a big difference to your mentee’s ability to meet one of their goals – perhaps a laptop to enable someone to engage in tertiary education or the fees for swimming lessons.

Refugees who are eligible to participate in the GMP are eligible to receive income support from the government via Centrelink. There is no expectation that the mentor group will cover basic financial support for things like housing, food and utilities. However, basic income support is just that – basic – and you may find that a specific purchase or investment could make a big difference to your mentee(s).

How much money should we aim to raise?

Mentor groups are expected to raise a small amount of money to provide the group with a budget for your work with its mentee(s). CRSA suggests that groups raise at least $1,000 for a single mentee, plus an additional $300 per additional family member (ie for a family of four, $1,000, plus $300, plus $300, plus $300 = $1,900), with a maximum fundraising target of $3,000 for each household.

The mentor group should consider opening a separate bank account to hold these funds or put in place other mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability within the group in relation to the collection and use of these funds. It will be up to the mentor group members to decide how to raise, hold and use these funds, taking into account your understanding of the needs of the mentee(s). The mentor group will hold this money and decide how best to spend it. If the mentor group wishes for donations that it receives to be tax deductible, your mentor group will need to raise funds through an organisation that can issue deductible gift receipts for donations received for the purposes of being involved in the group mentorship program.

 How should the money be raised?

You are welcome to use whatever fundraising methods you believe will be most successful in your community context. These may include events, appeals/campaigns, sales, grants or individual or corporate donations – methods are limited only by your creativity. Or perhaps you’ll find one local donor who will just give you a couple of thousand dollars – you may find surprising generocity once people hear about what you’re up to. We are keen to observe and learn from your experience so that we can tell future groups what works best.

Are donations to my mentor group tax-deductible? 

If you are able to raise money through an organisation with ‘Deductible Gift Recipient’ (DGR) status (for example, a registered charity with DGR status), that you may be able to offer tax deductible receipts to assist your fundraising efforts. Talk to local charities about whether they are willing to assist you with this. You can look up the status of charities and other non profits on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits website – see https://www.acnc.gov.au/

Can you tell me more about the training that we will need to undertake?

Is there a cost?

No. CRSA will provide the training free of charge, though we would expect your group to cover the cost of refreshments for your group and venue hire if you we deliver ‘in person’ training to your group in your local area. Usually, we are able to work with local groups to find free training venues and, in the COVID context, we ask group participants to bring their own food and beverages for the day.

When and how will training take place? What will it cover?

 Dates, times and modes of delivery for training will be confirmed with your group once your participation in the program is confirmed, taking into account your group’s location, availability and any COVID-19 restrictions. The training will take a total of approximately 8 hours which can be delivered either in full day or two half-day formats, in person or on-line. Please bear in mind that CRSA is a charity with very limited resources so we won’t be able to fund travel to each and every group.  Where it its not cost effective to train groups in person, we will offer on-line training via Zoom or similar platforms.

Training will take place over the course of September – December 2021. The training package is an adaptation of a package developed by Canadian experts and others at the forefront of programs in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere, which CRSA and its partners have modified for the Australian context. It comprises four modules covering:

  • Principles of mentorship/sponsorship
  • Group responsibilities and roles
  • Managing expectations and considering culture
  • Considering power, agency, privacy and confidentiality

Once your group has been matched with a mentee household we will help you to identify other training that might be helpful on issues specific to your mentee(s)’s settlement goals and your community context. If you have specific training requests, let us know as part of the Mentor Group Application Form and we will endeavour to address these.

Tell me more about matching mentor groups with mentees

How will matching take place?

Matching groups with mentees will be based on geography, discussions between the mentee/s’s settlement goals and your group and community resources, and the characteristics of mentee and mentor group profiles. It will be an iterative and nuanced process with close cooperation between CRSA and our partner organisations in order to facilitate the most suitable matches possible. You will have a final say on whether you are willing and able to mentor the mentee/s who we propose to match you with and the mentee/s will also need to consent to the arrangement.

What if there is a disconnect between where the mentor group is located, and where the mentee is/would like to be located?

Some of the mentees will already be in long-term housing and have jobs or kids enrolled in schools. If you live in an area where the cost of housing (and living) is high, it is quite possible that there won’t be refugees living in your area or planning to move to your area. In that case, it will be up to your group to consider how far you are willing to travel to mentor your mentee/s, and we will endeavour to find a suitable match on that basis. If you live in an area where there is affordable housing and it might be viable for a refugee/household to move there on a long-term basis, we can also endeavour to facilitate that but we will need your help. The two biggest concerns that refugees typically have when considering relocation are generally, like most people, securing affordable housing and jobs – something to consider in your application if you know that there are not many refugees already living in your community.

How much information will our mentor group receive about the mentee/s before a match is finalised?

Before finalising the matching, we expect to be able to share basic information about the refugee household (ages, genders, relationships, current location and relocation plans, date of arrival in Australia, visa, country of origin/ethnic group, languages (including English), known settlement needs (may be incomplete)). You will likely not have information about why they left their country of origin. It can be traumatic for people to share this sort of information and we recommend that you allow the mentee/s to share this with you if and when they feel comfortable.

We expect to have contact with the mentee/s and in some cases, we may be able to facilitate direct communication prior to the match being confirmed. However, we recommend that you include all relevant information about refugee profile(s) your group could support in your Mentor Group Application Form to facilitate effective and efficient matching.

As noted above, you will have a final say on whether you are willing and able to mentor the mentee/s who we match you with and the mentee/s will also need to consent to the arrangement. After matching, your group will have the opportunity to work together with the mentee/s and any relevant partner organisations to finalise a mentorship support plan.

 

What if our mentor group is not matched with a mentee?

We will do our best to match each mentor group with a mentee, however, it may not be possible. If CRSA is unable to match your group with a mentee, we will endeavour to find other ways to involve your group in advocating or preparing for a future community refugee sponsorship program in Australia.

What sort of support do people need when they are moving to a new community (secondary migration)?

When a family moves to a new area, its important that mentor groups be able to support the needs of all family members.  Mentor groups could provide a welcoming reception on arrival, provide an initial orientation tour of the area, build knowledge of the community, employment opportunities, health services, community services, English classes, schools and secondary employment opportunities for other family members and provide holistic support. Mentorship is about building the mentee/s’s independence as well supporting them to become integral members of their new community. There are some resources on our website, under the community hub, that refer to this particular issue directly. You may like to review these as part of the application process, or just as additional information.

What sort of support will mentor groups have access to from professionals?

Refugees who came to Australia through the government’s offshore humanitarian program will likely have a professional caseworker (employed by a government-contracted service provider), who will likely have referred them into the GMP as mentee/s. The caseworker will work with the mentee and the mentor group to develop the mentorship support plan and support the mentorship. It is important that mentor groups work collaboratively with caseworkers to ensure each party involved is aware of their roles and responsibilities. Settlement service providers have clear reporting requirements on certain settlement outcomes, of which they will communicate to groups post-matching.

TPV/SHEV visa-holders will likely have less support. However, all mentees and mentor groups will have access to settlement agencies’ referral networks and those organisations’ community services. Some refugees may also have access to some more intensive and/or long-term government settlement services. CRSA’s partner organisations include leading settlement agencies who have agreed to support mentor groups with training, referrals and back-up advice and case support.

Do we need to be incorporated or partner with an organisation?

For the GMP, it is not necessary for your group to be a legal entity. However, we encourage groups to either form a legal entity or connect themselves with an existing SCO as it will make it easier for you to operate in some respects (eg opening a bank account and securing insurance coverage).  We also think its likely that any future federal community sponsorship program would require groups to have some formal legal status.

For round two we are looking to further understand the relationship between mentor groups, community organisations and CRSA. If you have a connection with a local organisation (faith, sporting, community etc.) who may be interested in supporting your group with some of the day-to-day administration and support, please share with them information on this program and ask them to reach out to CRSA for additional information.

    Code of Conduct for SCO-associated and independent groups

    Each group member will need to sign a code of conduct to participate in the program. This code of conduct sets a standard of behaviour across all groups and provides some guidance on what the role of the group is and appropriate behaviour. Groups who are not connected to an organisation will be provided with CRSA’s template Mentor Group Code of Conduct, which groups can adopt as their own.

    Groups who are associated with a Supporting Community Organisation will most likely need to sign that organisations code of conduct for volunteers. If the organisation does not have a code of conduct, groups will need to adopt CRSA’s code.

      I’m part of an organisation wanting to support local groups. What would that involve and what do we need to do?

      The first step is to fill out our Expression of Interest form. Organisations wishing to support local mentor groups can choose this as an area of interest within the form, once submitted, our team will be in touch to discuss this role in more detail.

      As an overview, a supporting community organisation can expect to support groups with the following:

      • Recruitment, screening and application process
      • Assist in setting standards of conduct for groups
      • Provision of insurance and accounting needs for groups
      • Ongoing support (first point of contact, conflict resolution)
      • Regular ‘check ins’ with mentors and mentees
      • Evaluation support as required

      If your organisation has a volunteer base you can share this program with them as a new way of engaging in this program as part of the work that your organisation does.

      Who is responsible for managing day-to-day activities and risks?

      CRSA is coordinating the GMP program by developing a framework for the program, undertaking some basic screening of group members, providing mentor groups with some ‘soft skills’ training and helping to connect groups with mentee households. In doing these things, CRSA is not establishing  any partnership, joint venture, agency, employment, contractor or volunteer relationship with your mentor group or its members.  Mentor groups are self-regulating in terms of their membership and governance and the day-to-day decisions and activities of the mentor group will be determined by the mentor group members in consultation with the mentee(s). CRSA will not arrange or direct these activities. The mentor group will be responsible for procuring any resources or equipment that it needs in order to support its mentee(s) and for compliance with any applicable laws and regulations that may apply to those activities.

      The mentor group will also be responsible for considering any risks associated with its activities and taking appropriate steps to mitigate these, whether by putting in place practical measures or by taking out relevant insurance policies (see separate question on). CRSA may be able to offer suggestions on risk management, or put your group in touch with others who can help, if this is required.

      Can you tell me more about getting insurance for this work?

      The only firm requirement for the program is that your group be covered by a public liability insurance policy with cover of at least $10million per claim, in case the acts or omissions of a member of your group cause harm to someone else.  Your group could secure this cover through a Supporting Community Organisation or take out a new policy directly with an insurer. We recommend that you speak to an insurance broker that is used to dealing with non-profits and community organisations, such as Our Community (ourcommunity.com.au) – there are others, so shop around! We hope to learn from your experience on this front.  Whether or not your group needs any other insurance coverage will depend on the proposed activities of your group.  For example, will you run any public events or public fundraising drives?

      Bear in mind that many of the day-to-day activities of mentor groups may already be covered by personal insurances held by group members such as car insurance and home/contents insurance. For groups outside of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) can offer public liability cover under its existing insurance policy to rural or regionally located groups that would like to become members of RAR for a fee of $60 per annum (see https://www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au/rar-groups/). 

      IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no need to finalise these arrangements immediately. You only need to get your insurance and bank account in place once CRSA has notified you and your group that we are confident that we have found a refugee household for your group to mentor.

      How do we overcome language barriers with our mentees?

      The general philosophy of community sponsorship and our mentor program, is that local groups try to find resources to meet as many of their daily needs as possible, so we encourage you to look for local solutions to solving the language barrier.  Is there someone in your community who could act as an informal translator, or a community organisation that can provide translation services.  These days, there are many digital tools that can help when you’re having day to day interactions and get a bit stuck, like Google Translate.

      However, if you really need access to formal translation or interpreting services, CRSA has an account with the federal Translating and Interpreting Services, which mentor groups can avail themselves of free of charge.  Please contact a member of our team if you need to get access to this program.

      I have a spare bedroom/granny flat which I would love to offer to a refugee. Is this possible?

      Stable, appropriate housing is key to effective settlement. If you wish to provide accommodation, it depends on whether you intend to do so on an ongoing or a temporary basis. In the context of settlement, we welcome those who are able to open their homes in a way that is durable (eg, welcoming a single person or a couple as housemates, renting to a refugee family at an affordable rate). If what you are really interested in doing is offering short-term accommodation to people in emergency situations, it might be better to make this offer through asylum or migrant resource centres or another emergency housing service rather than through the GMP.

      Sponsorship program FAQs

      What is community sponsorship?
      The concept of community sponsorship contemplates ordinary individuals or community groups pulling together the funds and other resources needed to support a refugee or refugee family settling within their community. This typically involves raising funds to cover flights and initial settlement expenses, as well as income support for the first 12 months after arrival.
      How does community sponsorship work in Australia

      At present, we are waiting for news from the Australian government as to whether it will introduce a new community sponsorship program in Australia. As a result, we are unable to provide detailed advice on the details of what sponsorship will entail. However, we would expect that sponsor groups would:

      • Need to include at least five adult individuals who are Australian citizens or permanent residents
      • Need to be incorporated or partner with an existing community organisation
      • Need to be willing and able to raise a significant amount of funds to sponsor refugees from overseas (anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the nature of the program and the size of the refugee family involved)
      • Be able to provide 12 months of practical settlement support on a par with that currently provided by government-funded settlement services

      See our Community Sponsorship Explainer for more details of the model that we have recommended for Australia.

      CRSA FAQs

      Is CRSA a charity?
      I’d like to make a donation to CRSA. How do I do this?

      CRSA is a registered Australian charity with tax deductible gift recipient (DGR) status. We are currently setting up an automated system to collect donations for those wishing to support our work.

      In the meantime, if you would like to donate to our work please email us on info@refugeesponsorship.org.au and we can provide you with our bank details and a tax deductible gift receipt.

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      If you can't find what you're looking for, try checking our Community Hub, including our Frequently Asked Questions.

      Otherwise, feel free to get in touch with us via our Contact Us page.