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Community sponsorship of refugees is a growing global phenomenon which expands resettlement capacity through harnessing the resources and networks of local volunteer groups, who are trained and supported to provide holistic settlement support to refugee newcomers.

Community refugee sponsorship has been working successfully in Canada for more than 40 years. Ordinary community members in Canada have sponsored and welcomed more than 300,000 refugees since the late 1970s. This number is in addition to those entering under the government-funded resettlement program.

The practice is now spreading around the world with countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and Argentina all having established community sponsorship schemes.

And here is how we started working to make this happen in Australia!

Initially launched as a joint initiative of a group of leading Australian charities and nonprofits*, Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia is now an independent non-profit organisation with a vision to play a leading role in encouraging, developing and supporting the implementation of a holistic community-led refugee support program in Australia.

We are working to harness the power of community across Australia to provide refugees with a warm welcome and high standard of settlement support upon arrival, leading to strong social and economic integration outcomes.

Getting Started

In 2018, driven by the desire to find ways to expand and improve refugee resettlement in Australia and to create greater opportunities for connection between Australian citizens and refugee newcomers, a group of leading Australian charities and nonprofits* came together to launch a joint project – the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI).

CRSI’s role was to work with the Australian government and local communities to develop a shared vision in implementing a community refugee sponsorship program in Australia. CRSI’s work was possible primarily thanks to the generous support of the Sidney Myer Fund.

Launching the Pilot Program

Although the Coronavirus pandemic saw Australia’s international borders closed to refugees and other migrants in 2020, CRSI decided to press ahead and launch a pilot program that would test and demonstrate the viability of the community sponsorship approach in Australia.

CRSI mobilised, screened and trained groups of local volunteers to mentor refugees who had arrived in Australia prior to the pandemic and who were in need of additional settlement support. The Pilot, called the ‘Group Mentorship Program,’ put the sponsorship model into practice in Australia and CRSI helped to coordinate dozens of local volunteer groups and NGOs in a ‘first of its kind’ experiment in Australia.

The level of community support for this program was overwhelming and its positive results show how effective community-led support for refugees can be.

Learn more about the program and its preliminary findings here:
<<<link to interim/final program report>>>

From CRSI to CRSA

In late 2020, an independent non profit entity [charity] was created to carry this work forward – Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia Ltd (CRSA). CRSA has inherited the staff, assets and role of CRSI and will continue working with government and community representatives to achieve the original vision of CRSI.

In the short term, while Australia’s humanitarian migration program remains suspended, CRSA will work to build the capacity of more volunteer groups and their local organisations around the country by offering training, resources and the opportunity to become mentors for refugee households. CRSA will also continue working towards its longer-term goal of seeing a well-designed and additional community sponsorship program launched in Australia, with the hope of enabling Australian sponsor groups to welcome and support refugees currently awaiting resettlement overseas.

Find out more about our current programs and how you can join the movement here.

Looking for something else?

After you have formed a Community Supporter Group you’ll be invited to join CRSA’s Community Hub, where you can connect with other groups across the country, revisit past Peer Forums, and access hundreds of additional resources.