ANZ has joined a growing number of organisations committed to welcoming and resettling Afghan refugees, with a generous pledge to support the work of Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA).
Over the past months, Australians from all walks of life have rallied to open their arms and hearts to those fleeing the violence in Afghanistan, from private individuals, community organisations, schools, sporting clubs, churches, other faith organisations and corporates.
An ANZ cash donation will add to the previous support given by the Sidney Myer Fund and other philathropists and help CRSA to run a unique community support program that provides Afghan refugees with social support and practical help from individuals in their local community.
Lisa Button, CEO of CRSA says the program coordinates groups of five or more ‘everyday Australians’ to come together as a local support group for a single refugee household during their first six to twelve months in the county.
“This can be done independently or under the banner of a community club, school, church or even a business. Understandably in the current context, members of the veteran community are also keen to get on board,” Ms Button said.
“These groups will help newcomers with practical day-to-day things like connecting with local services, understanding public transport systems, driving lessons, finding work and opportunities to practice English. Friendship and emotional support is also a huge part of it. This program is inspired by the successful Canadian refugee sponsorship program that has operated for more than 40 years, since the Indochinese crisis and community-led programs in Australia in decades gone by.”
This community support model, piloted by CRSA during the pandemic, has been warmly received by community volunteers and refugees alike. It is expected to have a new wave of local groups ready to support Afghan evacuees in six to eight weeks.
Nayereh, a young Afghan woman who came to Australia as a refugee in 2019, was part of CRSA’s pilot program.
“Having a mentor group has been like having a whole team of people behind me, when before I was just on my own, without any family here. The mentor group has helped me get my dream job and with so many other things like getting set up in a flat with donated furniture and appliances. We’ve also had a lot of fun together – sharing meals and picnics and trips to interesting places. I would need a day or even a month to say all of the things that they have done for me.”
Daniel Grynberg, a member of a Sydney mentor group supporting Nayereh said he joined the program because of his family history.
“My grandparents were welcomed to Australia as refugees so I’ve always felt a connection and a sense of responsibility to assist people fleeing persecution. It’s been really rewarding to meet with and support younger people who’ve come to Australia from places like Afghanistan and Myanmar and see how much of a difference we’ve been able to make in their lives by tapping into the networks and the resources that we have. It’s incredibly rewarding. There is so much that the community can do, especially at a time of humanitarian crisis like now.”
ANZ has decided to take action in the context of the current Afghanistan crisis. Its contribution includes financial support to help CRSA to scale up the program, as well as employment opportunities, financial education and access to banking services for Afghan evacuees/refugees. ANZ will also use its internal communications platforms to tell their thousands of staff about opportunities to contribute to the Afghan response through workplace giving and staff volunteering.
ANZ’s CEO Shayne Elliot said: “There are many ANZ people, staff and customers alike, who have been personally impacted by the tragic events in Afghanistan over the last few weeks and who would like us to help in a meaningful way.
“We have seen over many years the significant contribution migrants and refugees have made to Australia and to ANZ. We want to welcome Afghan refugees so they can rebuild their lives here and help make our community even stronger in the future.
“Our donation to CRSA for the innovative work it is leading is just the start. We will continue to support newcomers from Afghanistan to feel welcome, supported and included as future Australians.”
ANZ’s announcement builds on a growing list of corporates and other organisations around the world stepping up and coming together to offer support to those fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan such as AirBnB, Ikea and Atlassian. This is coupled with a notable show of unity from the Australian churches and other faith groups who are urging the government to agree to a special intake of Afghan refugees and offering to help refugees settle in Australia.
Lisa Button added: “We hope to see the federal government supporting this program and introducing a specific community sponsorship scheme for refugees still awaiting visas overseas. If private individuals and businesses are keen to help Australia do more using their own time and resources, why not provide an avenue for this?’’
Those individuals and organisations interested in providing practical support to Afghan and other refugees coming to Australia should visit www.refugeesponorship.org.au to find out more.