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Two-year ‘Eltham Project’ to provide housing and support to Syrian refugees draws to a close


August 2018

The two-year initiative to provide medium-term accommodation and settlement support for refugees from Syria and Iraq at an Eltham aged care village is drawing to a close with all residents on track to make the transition into long-term housing by September.

The ‘Eltham Project’ – a joint initiative between St Vincent’s Care Services and CatholicCare – housed 61 refugees (54 adults, 7 children) from Syria and Iraq over its two year duration and helped the new arrivals successfully put down roots in their new homeland.

St Vincent’s Health Australia CEO, Toby Hall, said that from September the accommodation would return to providing housing to older Australians.

“When we launched this initiative in 2016, it came from knowing that the arrival of 12,000 extra refugees in Australia would put housing services under enormous pressure. We felt we were in a position to do something about it, so we volunteered our help,” said Mr Hall.

“Housing is a major challenge for recently arrived refugees and they’re particularly vulnerable in the competitive private rental market. Our aim was to help the refugees acclimatise to their new home and build up their community links and rental history, so they were better able to move into private rental when the time was right.

“St Vincent’s invested $2.4m on refurbishing the buildings for the housing and CatholicCare received donations from donors, local churches and the broader community to help provide the expert support services that were required.

“Fourteen of the refugees are aged over 55 and qualify to remain residents on site as the housing returns to providing accommodation for older people.

“The rest have been supported by CatholicCare to successfully make the transition into the private rental market. We continue to work with a very small number to find new housing but we expect that to occur over the next month.”

CatholicCare CEO, Netty Horton, said the Eltham Project’s success had largely come down to the welcoming and tolerant nature of the broader Eltham community.

“We owe a very large part of the success of the Eltham Project to the local community,” said Ms Horton.

“The people of Eltham were incredible. From the very beginning, when outside elements attempted to create trouble and cast doubt on the project, the people of Eltham organised themselves and put on a huge display of welcome for the refugees.

“Whether through the Welcome to Eltham group, or local churches and community groups, or just through individuals independently offering their help, the refugees never felt less than fully supported.

“The long-term elderly residents of the aged care village were also wonderful. Their friendship and generosity never wavered. And the local staff on the ground at St Vincent’s Care Services Eltham and CatholicCare have been brilliant throughout.

“We also need to thank the local Mayor, Peter Clarke, and the rest of Nillumbik Shire Council; the State MP, Vicki Ward; the Federal MP, Jenny Macklin; and the State MLC for Eastern Metropolitan, Mary Wooldridge for their support throughout.

“Thanks to everyone who contributed, the Eltham Project has been incident-free for the entire two years and an unqualified success.

“The Eltham Project is a great example of what can be achieved by generous Australians who throw open their doors and extend a welcoming hand to refugees fleeing war and persecution,” said Ms Horton.

Media contacts:

Paul Andrews                                                  Bernadette Garcia

St Vincent’s Health Australia                          CatholicCare

0409 665 495                                                  0409 708 823