Anglicare plays a practical role in helping refugees and migrants to settle in Tasmania.
Each month, Anglicare counsellor Mara Lovrin chairs the Bridges meeting which gives members of the multicultural community an opportunity to raise issues and exchange information with local service providers.
“I’m very passionate about this work,” said Mara. “Responding to the needs of vulnerable people, many of whom have experienced significant trauma, sits very closely with the values of Anglicare. It is a chance for us to share hope, seek justice, and show compassion and respect to new, emerging communities”.
These communities include Bhutanese, Nepalese, Karen, Hazara, Persian, Sudanese, Congolese and Ethiopian settlers. The state is also preparing for the arrival of up to 500 Syrian refugees next year.
“The Bridges meetings have been running for ten years and are highly successful,” said Mara. “There is usually a guest speaker from a service who talks on a topic that the participants are eager to learn about”. These include housing, parenting and employment matters. “Specific issues also come up that we are able to respond to – such as questions about how people might access certain foods, or what’s needed to obtain a drivers licence”.
Mara said often concerns could be addressed straight away. “A student was being bullied because she wears the hijab (headscarf). One of the community members went with the family to the girl’s school and together they implemented strategies to effectively deal with the bullying”. Another issue raised at Bridges was a language barrier experienced by people having driving lessons. “A local service was able to quickly organise an interpreter to assist,” said Mara.
The conversations at Bridges help to build understanding. “For example, we’ve learned that many communities have a fear of police, because of previous experiences with corrupt or dangerous officials,” said Mara. “The Bridges meetings help to break down these kinds of barriers and foster good relationships between communities and local services”.
The size of the Bridges meeting varies from 20-80 people. “Bridges is serving a valuable purpose,” said Mara, “and it’s something I really enjoy being a part of. I travel a lot and find different cultures fascinating. I’ve also had my own experience of settling in a new country - I’m a migrant from New Zealand. I believe that these new communities bring richness and diversity to our state”.