Arrupe Place in Parramatta opened its doors just over a year ago and already this drop-in centre for asylum seekers, established by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in collaboration with seven other partners including the Good Samaritan Sisters, has been recognised for its innovative work.
At the 2016 Zest Awards in Sydney late last month, Arrupe Place received the “Exceptional Community Partnership Project in a Local Government Area Award”.
“This has been a truly collaborative process,” said Arrupe Place’s Co-ordinator, Maeve Brown, of the award, which recognised the project’s “capacity building, advocacy and leadership”.
“This award is a testament to our exceptional partners whose great support has helped Arrupe Place work.”
Maeve said that Arrupe Place had been established in early 2015 to provide a welcoming space for people seeking asylum and in need of essential services in Western Sydney.
To provide these services JRS partnered with seven other organisations: the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta, the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS), the Australian Red Cross, Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), and Training for Change.
Two other organisations, STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors) and Baker & McKenzie, have also provided free support for asylum seekers.
“We were drawn together with the common goal of providing a safe haven that allows asylum seekers to live with dignity and become self-sufficient whilst waiting for their claims for protection to be assessed,” explained Maeve.
“Arrupe Place ensures that accessing support is easier and less stressful for those most in need by housing our many varied services in this one location in Parramatta.”
Currently Arrupe Place offers a range of services, including English language and cooking classes, a food bank, legal advice, and significantly, according to Maeve, “a sense of community”.
“Asylum seekers can drop into the cottage provided by the Sisters of Mercy, receive legal advice from RACS, employment support from Training for Change, arts and playgroup programs from ICE, even emergency aid from the Red Cross, as well as a cup of tea and a chat with our JRS caseworkers,” she said.
“Most importantly, asylum seekers visiting Arrupe Place have a place where they feel safe and less isolated, and where they can access programs that have led to increased participation in the local community.”
For Good Samaritan Sister Sarah Puls, a social worker who leads the team of JRS caseworkers, Arrupe Place “is an amazing thing to be involved in” – and that’s due largely to the effective partnerships that have been forged among those working at the centre.
“It’s great to be able to work together. I think it makes the work we do so much more achievable,” said Sarah.
“When the government’s treating people so badly it’s really nice to connect with and help our clients connect with groups in the community that want to support them, that want to engage, that want to see them as valuable contributing members of the community.
“It’s a great thing to be able to connect them with those opportunities,” she said.
Sarah is one of six permanent staff at Arrupe Place whose work is complemented by a team of more than 50 volunteers under the coordination of Charity Sister Margaret Guy.
Among those volunteers are Good Samaritan Sisters Marie O’Connor, Veronica McDougall and Elizabeth Murray, all English teachers, and Good Samaritan Oblate Susan Stubenrauch, who helps to run the foodbank.
In 2015 the staff and volunteers at Arrupe Place assisted over 1,500 people seeking asylum. If you’d like to assist asylum seekers and the work of Arrupe Place phone (02) 9098 9336.