Member Volunteer Program
For asylum seekers who are yet to be granted work rights, or who have work rights but are unemployed, volunteering at the ASRC provides the best opportunity to develop the language, social and work skills they’ll need to thrive in Australia.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Member Volunteer Program
August 2016 - July 2018
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Inc. is Australia’s largest community-led, not-for-profit organisation providing advocacy, aid and health services for all people seeking asylum.
Our Community Program supported the Member Volunteer Program, which facilitates ASRC member (asylum seeker) engagement with a wide variety of volunteering and professional development opportunities.
This initiative recognises that there’s no one better placed to help run the ASRC than the very people the organisation aims to help. By broadening the skills and talents of asylum seekers, the Member Volunteer Program aims to enhance their employment prospects and ensure that they’re adequately equipped to contribute to their new communities once they leave the centre.
The program conducts one-on-one assessments with participants and includes a recruitment and interview process. Ongoing support is then provided to successful member volunteers, who work closely with various ASRC program managers to ensure the volunteer experience is beneficial to both parties.
“Without the support from the LUCRF Super Community Program, we would not be able to offer members the current service that we provide through our volunteer engagement such as working with members on a one-on-one basis, assisting them to obtain the required police and Working with Children checks, assisting with the online induction and working with ASRC program managers and external partners to match them to a suitable role.” ASRC Interim Update Report, Feb 2018.
The ASRC Member Volunteer Program was a finalist in the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Awards in the category of ‘Inclusion’ due to the involvement of individuals or groups who are often excluded from the mainstream or traditional volunteering.
“This recognition of your team’s selfless assistance to those of the Australian community, who are in need, is a marvellous accomplishment.” Hon Bruce Atkinson MLC, Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region, President of the Legislative Council, Parliament of Victoria, Dec 2017.
Sana sought asylum in Australia from fear of persecution in Iran, after witnessing the deaths of people who shared their Baha’i faith.
Since connecting with the ASRC, Sana has undertaken a Certificate IV in Accounting and has also improved her English through attending ASRC’s English language courses. Sana then began volunteering at the ASRC, working one day a week.
“I am very happy here, and I am very thankful for the ASRC. Most of my confidence was gone, but ...it is coming back," Sana says.
Wanting to provide support to other asylum seekers, Nadir says he volunteers because it continuously teaches him something new about people, about co-operation and compassion, and about himself.
He has found volunteering to be an excellent way to learn new skills. It also adds experience to his resume. In his role at ASRC, he’s been able to take initiative and work independently as well as part of a team.
“Learning new skills and experiences is always rewarding, and I’m glad that the ASRC gave me the opportunity to gain them and also improve what I may need in the future,” Nadir says.
Nigel began volunteering at the ASRC in the Advocacy and Campaign stream, though at times he also helps other departments, mostly when it comes to taking photographs.
Nigel sought volunteer opportunities when he had nothing to do. He found that when his mind was idle, it impacted on his mental and physical health. He needed to get out of the house and keep himself busy as well as challenge himself. He thought that he could offer his skills and experience to make a positive change to other people.
Despite the challenges he has faced such as adapting to an Australian work culture, Nigel has loved volunteering and values the opportunity to gain professional experience in an Australian setting. He enjoys meeting different people and learning how to use new information.
Amy came to the ASRC in 2017 after seeking asylum in Australia due to ethno-political aggravation in her country of origin. Amy has extensive work experience in the education sector and is highly qualified. She was referred to the member volunteer engagement program in May 2017 after expressing an interest in volunteering to gain new skills.
Amy was given the role of reception volunteer at the ASRC. Through the varied nature of the role, she developed the confidence to communicate more effectively, and to provide appropriate and welcoming customer service to other members, visitors and staff.
Amy was the first point of contact for many asylum seekers and served as a conduit by referring them to the right services. She learned how to navigate the ASRC’s complex customer relationship management database and completed the required administrative and operational tasks to ensure each incoming member had the required identification and paperwork. Providing customer service, answering phone calls and working efficiently in a busy and dynamic work place were more skills that Amy gained through her volunteer role.
“Volunteering at ASRC totally changed my perspective of work and shows me the bright side of the working environment in Australia. It creates great connections, and allows me to network with a range of people, including professionals. This enables me to improve my communication skills. Furthermore, it builds my confidence to apply for different professional jobs. Also, it helps me to improve my problem-solving capacity and help people who come here with lots of stress. I am very glad to be part of this. Many thanks.”
Amy’s goal is to secure paid work and undertake further studies. She’s hopeful that her newly learned skills and experience will further enhance her chance of success.
Over the duration of our Community Program support, there was an average of around 70 member volunteers across the centre’s 29 programs.
The biggest impact the project has had on our member volunteers has been the increase in confidence and social connections through improved language and communication skills. Some members are even volunteering five days a week!
We have also supported the following ASRC projects:
- Community Food Program (Jan 2019 - Dec 2020)
- Mentoring Program (Aug 2016 - Jul 2018)
- Foodbank (Aug 2016 - Jul 2018)
All names have been changed to protect the individuals' privacy.