The Asylum Seeker Welcome Centre (ASWC) in Brunswick recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Founded in 2002 by a number of agencies, including the Brunswick Uniting Church and the now Merri-bek Council, the centre welcomes and supports people seeking a safer life in Australia.
While waiting for decisions on their applications to be processed, many people seeking asylum are isolated in the community with very little or no form of assistance, and with few rights or entitlements. The primary aim of the ASWC has been to create the opportunity for people to make decisions about their own lives, with a strong emphasis on mutual support and learning, while providing a safe place of welcome.
Client of the centre, Rehan* says “the ASWC is a place of hope and I see it as my second home. It is a very welcoming place with friendly workers and volunteers.”
Over 150 people gathered to celebrate the milestone, and the overwhelming feeling was one of positivity, enduring community connections, and a melting pot across the community of people involved with the centre – agencies, donors, clients, staff, ex-staff and volunteers.
Entertainment took the form of a jazz band, a children’s entertainer and face painter, photo booth, Ethiopian coffee ceremony, as well as a performance by singer and ASWC volunteer Liz Stringer.
The event was attended not just by current ASWC staff and clients, but also those from throughout the centre’s 20 year history. The universal response was that the event was a resounding success. Warm, generous, welcoming and compassionate. Just like the centre itself.
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*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured.