Melbourne, 8 December 2023
Geneva hosts the second-ever ‘Global Refugee Forum’ from 13-15 December, bringing together global government leaders and civil society representatives to reflect on the current challenges and find new approaches to respond to the global refugee crisis.
There is a growing global ‘community sponsorship’ movement that provides a way for refugees to safely rebuild their lives, and to contribute their creativity and skills to the success of a new country, with the help of a local group of active citizens. It will be one of the key initiatives spotlighted at the Geneva forum.
In Australia, community sponsorship is gaining momentum. Everyday Aussies are putting up their hand to help refugees with the support of Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA), a national charity leading this work. In mid 2022, CRSA partnered with the federal government in designing and launching the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (CRISP), which has already seen more than 80 refugee households successfully welcomed by community groups across Australia, with rewarding outcomes for all involved. And it’s not just individuals who are getting involved. Organisations, ranging from grassroots community clubs to large-scale enterprises, are offering their time and resources to help grow this movement of local people power.
For over a year, Cassinia Environmental, a land management and protection company, has worked with local communities in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges region to welcome and support the settlement of refugee households in the area. Ross Kelly, CEO of Cassinia Community, recounts the “deeply rewarding” experience of being involved in CRISP: “Witnessing the arrival of these families and aiding their settlement in the Kyneton area has been profoundly fulfilling. Our partnership with the initiative exemplifies the remarkable outcomes achievable when communities unite to support refugee resettlement in Australia.”
Pride Foundation Australia has also been part of the movement. Chairperson Dr. Ruth McNair AM explains: “We are involved as we believe in the power of small groups of friends to welcome refugees and help with their settlement. In our case, we are also strongly committed to enabling more LGBTIQ people to find safety and community in Australia. LGBTIQ persecution is a common reason to seek asylum and the settlement needs can be very specific, requiring good connections with LGBTIQ communities. We offer this and with support from CRISP have learned so much about what it takes to be there when it counts.”
In November this year, CRSA launched a pledge to build the community sponsorship movement in Australia. The pledge has now been endorsed by more than 70 organisations and groups, with more expected to sign in the coming months. By signing the pledge, these organisations have signalled their willingness to help further develop and scale community sponsorship of refugees. Of these organisations, 20 have gone one step further and formalised their work with CRSA as a Supporting Community Organisation (SCO), committing to helping grow the community sponsorship movement around the country. James Harris, Director of Strategic Projects at faith-led initiative NAYBA, shared his perspective on becoming a Supporting Community Organisation: “it provides a practical and tangible way for organisations to provide support for refugees… We strongly encourage other organisations to consider how they can use their unique role to mobilise their networks and join this movement.”
“The response to the pledge and our SCO initiative has been wonderful and reminds us all that there is an enormous amount of local community support for welcoming those who have been forced to flee into our communities. Community sponsorship provides an opportunity for Australians to help address the global needs through human-to- human interaction, rather than seeing refugees as an overwhelming geopolitical issue. In doing so, they join a growing global community of everyday people from more than a dozen countries who are making a crucial difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees each year” said Lisa Button, CEO of CRSA.