New funding for Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, honouring the Sidney and Elcon Myer legacy

by | Jun 30, 2019 | Posted to: News

This post was originally published by CRSI -Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative - on June 30th, 2019 and is archived. Learn more about our history.

The Sidney Myer Fund has agreed to provide significant anchor funding over the next three years to support the work of the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) in its mission of establishing a Canadian-style community refugee sponsorship scheme in Australia.

Lisa Button has led CRSI since its launch in April 2018 and will become its inaugural Executive Director in July.  Lisa said “The Sidney Myer Fund support is very welcome and will be a game-changer in terms of harnessing community and political support for a Canadian-style sponsorship scheme in Australia.

Ms Button said “Community sponsorship is an idea that has appeal to many Australians across the political spectrum and delivers a wide range of benefits to Australian communities, including regional and rural communities, as well as to refugees beginning new lives in Australia.

“CRSI’s proposed model would allow ordinary Australians and community groups to sponsor and welcome refugees to Australian communities at minimal additional cost to the taxpayer.  By coming together around a powerful shared purpose, local communities in Australia will be strengthened.  This approach will ensure that refugees can participate fully in the social and economic lives of their new communities and provides a model for the future expansion of Australia’s response to the global refugee crisis.

The CRSI approach builds on previous schemes that have operated before in Australia whereby people from communities around the country form local groups that sponsor and provide wrap-around support to refugees in their first year in Australia. CRSI has done the work on how this scheme could operate in practice and believes that Australian communities are keen to be involved. This would include providing individual and family mentoring covering aspects of daily life including assistance to register with Medicare and to open bank accounts, orientation to local services and public transport and connections to local community groups and activities.

Carrillo Gantner AC, Chairman of the Sidney Myer Fund said “Many people know the story of my grandfather Sidney Myer, who fled poverty and the Jewish pogroms in Belarus. He arrived in Australia in 1899 as a penniless 21 year old with no English before becoming the leading figure in the Australian retail industry and one of the era’s great philanthropists.” 

“Fewer people know the important role played by Sidney’s older brother Elcon, who arrived in Australia three years before Sidney and played a pivotal role in helping his younger brother establish himself Melbourne and Bendigo and go on to build the successful Myer retail business.  Not everyone who comes to Australia to escape persecution is lucky enough to have a family member who can help them in this way.  Community sponsorship provides a framework through which ordinary members of Australian communities can step in and mentor new arrivals in a similar manner.  I’m also convinced that local communities can benefit enormously from the act of sponsoring – the act of rallying around a shared mission builds all sorts of positive relationships and capacities. I hope to have the opportunity to become a member of a local sponsorship group myself in the future.”