After a pilot project in 2017, Edmund Rice Centre launched the Syrian and Iraqi Refugees Empowerment Program (SIREP) in early 2018. The overall aim of the project is to help newly-arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Sydney with their immediate resettlement and long-term integration. The project has two interconnected components: Mentoring Program for Refugees and Partnership Building with Community and Service Providers
1) Mentoring Program for Refugees
The SIREP mentoring program aims to assist newly arrived refugees in Sydney to articulate their needs, concerns and expectations. Experienced and qualified volunteer mentors from the Edmund Rice Centre work with the person they are assisting to assess their overall situation, identify their concerns and expectations, evaluate their professional needs, and assist them with finding a way forward. In doing so, mentors work with mentees to set short-term and long-term goals for mentees, and to identify and access the resources and services needed to achieve these goals.
In 2018, the SIREP mentor program assisted 25 refugees from Syria and Iraq with their immediate settlement and long-term integration by assessing their overall personal/family situation, identifying their concerns and expectations, evaluating their professional needs and assisting them with finding a way forward. The overall outcomes of the mentoring program have been:
- Our mentees have become more confident to improve their professional skills, pursue their further education and apply for employment opportunities. Four mentees have been able to secure employment and four mentees have been placed into paid internship opportunities during the past 12 months.
- Our mentees have become more confident with their English language skills as a result of receiving regular support from our experienced mentors as they were referred to English language providers and vocational training institutions.
- Our mentees have improved significantly their knowledge and understanding of Australian socio-cultural values, the education system, employment support services, government services and the Australian bureaucracy.
- We as an organisation have developed a greater understanding of the challenges faced by newly arrived refugees in accessing settlement services, connecting with the wider Australian community and preparing for social integration in Australia.
2) Partnership Building with Community and Service Providers
The second component of the SIREP is building sustainable working relationships and establishing effective referral partnerships with relevant partners, stakeholders and organisations working in the refugee support and empowerment space, including religious and community leaders, community organisations, non-governmental service providers, local schools, local councils, employment support agencies, education and vocational institutions and business support initiatives. The overall outcomes of the partnership building have been:
- Effective working relationships have been built and maintained with seven government and non-governmental service providers for helping Syrian and Iraqi refugees with their settlement needs and long-tern social intergradation requirements.
- Referral partnerships have been built with three employment support organisations to refer our mentees to their available employment support services and small businesses initiatives.
- Productive working relationships have been built with local catholic schools in Fairfield, Liverpool, Bankstown and Strathfield LGAs to help refugees with the enrolment of their children, attending English language support sessions and accessing available services provided schools.
- Effective working collaborations have been built with 8 community and religious leaders from Syria and Iraq who assist us in connecting with the wider Syrian and Iraqi communities, community groups and community associations.