CRSA’s Group Mentorship Pilot Program (2020)
In early 2020, as Australia responded to the global coronavirus pandemic, our international borders were largely closed to humanitarian entrants and other migrants. This stymied efforts by the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) and others to see a full sponsorship program introduced as refugees living overseas were largely unable to travel to Australia.
While maintaining this original long-term goal, CRSI worked with a range of collaborating organisations to develop a modified ‘group mentorship’ program model that could proceed while international immigration was suspended.
The resulting ‘Group Mentorship Program’ (GMP) launched in July 2020 aimed to harness the energies of local community groups to provide self-directed and holistic support for refugee households who had arrived in Australia prior to the pandemic.
How was the Pilot Program implemented?
The program mobilised, screened trained and matched local mentor groups with newly arrived refugee households to provide self-directed and holistic support for a six-month period.
Throughout the second half of 2020 and in early 2021 CRSI initiated, led and coordinated the implementation of the GMP with the support of ten key collaborating organisations.
It has mobilised and trained 21 groups in five states across Australia. Each group has on average 8 individual members who can collectively provide a significant amount of time each week to mentor and provide support to their mentee(s) each week. Many of the individual mentors involved had relevant professional backgrounds in general teaching, English as a second language education, health care and social services though there were no formal requirements in relation to the professional backgrounds of the mentors. In theory, the more diverse the members of the groups are the better – having people of different ages, occupations, genders, religions etc makes for a more knowledgeable, skilled and effective group.
What were the results?
Early results from this new approach are very encouraging. As the groups have begun working with refugee mentees we’ve seen:
- 21 mentor groups – recruited, vetted and trained 172 individual group members, average of 8 people per group;
- 12 groups ‘matched’ – now actively supporting one or more refugee households;
- 15 refugees households across Australia now receiving additional support (comprising 26 mentee adults and their 11 dependent children);
- new employment opportunities for refugee participants who have been able to tap into extended social and professional networks;
- improved access and enrolment in education for adults and children;
- help with English language acquisition and recognition of qualifications;
- refugees meeting personal milestones like securing a drivers licence; participation in community sport; improved social connections and participation in children’s playgroups;
- improved access to available local services and heightened awareness of the role that community groups can play in supporting refugees throughout communities where groups are located.
A full evaluation of the program is currently being undertaken – stay tuned!