Lentara UnitingCare

Asylum Seeker Women's Group

Lentara Asylum Seeker Women's GroupThe UnitingCare network is one of the largest providers of community services in Australia. Lentara specifically serves the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne. 

Lentara supports some of the most vulnerable members of our community, providing access to resources that are critical for sound health, wellbeing and participation in local communities. Lentara’s services are provided to all people irrespective of age, race, religion, language, ability, gender or sexual orientation.

Lentara’s Asylum Seeker Program provides support for refugees who are living lawfully in the community while their claims for protection are being assessed. Asylum seekers are some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society.

The LUCRF Super Community Program provided support over three years to establish the Lentara UnitingCare’s Asylum Seeker Women’s Group. 

The group provides a safe place where female asylum seekers can develop support networks and reduce their social isolation. It aims to increase awareness of Australian culture and provide opportunities for cross-cultural learning through a variety of activities and excursions. It promotes inclusiveness and increases independence and social mobility with the goal of improving mental health, well-being and self-esteem. Lentara Asylum Seeker Women's Group

With the Community Program’s support, an activities facilitator was appointed, enabling the group to enhance its offerings to this important segment of the community. The funding assisted in the development of the women’s group, providing opportunities for community involvement and the empowerment of women.

60 women and their children are invited to attend the monthly group to participate in creative, social and wellbeing activities such as art, singing, health and beauty, as well as enjoy a special lunch prepared by volunteers. In the 2015/16 financial year, women aged 20 - 57 attended the group. Attendees came from more than 66 different Melbourne suburbs and represented over 28 countries of origin. 

Success stories

Overcoming isolation

A young female client of the Asylum Seeker Program has struggled with mental health issues which often prevent her from attending social activities. Although she has been attending the Women’s Group for a few months, she would usually sit alone and not participate in activities. 

The group ran a painting activity which seemed to interest the woman. She courageously decided to participate. Not only did she paint her own piece, but she also contributed to a large group piece. After the session she expressed pride in her contribution. Considering the profound isolation this young woman faces due to her situation and her mental health issues, this event was a huge breakthrough.

FLentara Asylum Seeker Women's Groupinding hope 

Another woman seeking asylum had been attending the group in a volunteer capacity, which she found to be very rewarding. One afternoon, whilst packing up following a group activity she began to sing. Everyone in the hall sat in captivated silence listening to her beautiful voice.

The song was about a person who has lost hope, is alone and is asking for help. One of the lines was “drifting alone on the water like a piece of wood”. This woman explained to the group that during her journey to Australia by boat, the boat travelled through some very treacherous weather and everyone on the boat thought they were going to die. She began singing the song and soon all on the boat joined in, singing together until the sea calmed down.

This courageous woman is from Iran where she was not allowed to sing publicly.

 

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