In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Over the next few posts, we’ll look at some of the issues that those coming to our country faces in the areas of housing, employment, language and health. We’ll then look at what’s currently happening, particularly in regional areas, and what possible future approaches we can make to share our boundless plains.
There are a number of issues relating to housing in the resettlement of asylum seekers and refugees. The Brotherhood of St Laurence found that in Shepparton, cheap housing was initially plentiful, it since has become scarce. Housing that was available is often of poor quality, and within a system that is difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to understand. This makes exploitation by real estate agents a common occurrence. There are multiple stories of families with many children being placed in houses with only two or three bedrooms. In a Sudanese community in Colac, the Brotherhood of St Laurence again found a lack of public housing, and difficulties in getting private rentals. Initial settlement costs are another concern, with essential items such as a fridge, beds or blankets being difficult to source from a local Migrant Resource Centre. Where public housing was available, it was often shared amongst a number of families. One woman said “the way we live now, we don’t have plans because we are living together, three families in the one house.” Stress in the area of housing makes it difficult for asylum seekers to feel settled within a community.
Stay tuned for the next post, where we discuss some of the issues that asylum seekers and refugees face in the area of Employment. In the mean time, I’d love to hear any stories that you have about housing difficulties for asylum seekers and refugees, and any thoughts about how we can be more open to sharing the boundless plains of our nation.
References: Taylor, Stanovic and Brotherhood of St Laurence, Refugees and Regional Settlement: Balancing Priorities, 2005