Almost three years ago, CatholicCare joined forces with St Vincent’s Health Australia to offer housing and support for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq and looking to start a new life in Victoria.
Since that time, over 60 refugees have been housed and supported, building community links and a rental history. Sadly the two-year Eltham project will soon draw to a close. Most of the refugees have now transitioned to private rental arrangements, but fifteen of the residents aged over 55 will remain at the facility which will become affordable housing for seniors.
Last week, with thanks to the Nillumbik Shire Council, we held a wrap-up celebration for the Eltham Project at the Eltham Community and Reception Centre to acknowledge all the individuals and groups who helped make the project a success.
Speakers at the event included Toby Hall, CEO of St Vincent’s Health Australia; Netty Horton, CEO of CatholicCare; Monsignor Greg Bennet, Vicar General from the Archdiocese of Melbourne who gave a wonderful blessing; and the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, member for Jagajaga and Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services. Stories were also shared by one of the refugees and by a volunteer from Eltham Baptist Church.
‘The generosity and acceptance shown by all who have stood up in solidarity with our newest neighbours is perhaps this project’s greatest legacy: people working together, side by side, to build a strong and healthy and inclusive community,’ said Netty Horton, CEO of CatholicCare.
‘For the refugee families, this project provided a roof over their heads and a warm welcome from the local community as they took their first steps in their journey to good settlement. But it is the sense of belonging and connectedness that will endure for these families, and for all who shared in the journey.’
Netty also acknowledged St Vincent’s Health Australia, the Swan family, the Order of Malta and the Gill Family Foundation for their generosity which enabled CatholicCare to provide the settlement support for this project. She also thanked the many individuals and organisations who stepped forward to offer their support to the Eltham project and help the refugees settle well in their new home.
As the refugee families took to the dance floor, joined by volunteers, local residents and students from the Plenty Valley Christian College, the joy that this project has brought to this community was visible on the smiling faces all around.