Posted by Rowan McLean
Rotary North Balwyn is coordinating a program to assist newly arrived refugee families by supplying donated household goods, warm bedding, clothes, toys and furniture to supplement what they receive from government to help them settle in more comfortably. Involvement began though Bakhtar Community Organisation, a group of Afghan volunteers based in Dandenong who were helping new arrivals after the fall of Kabul in August 2021. 

We introduced them to RIMERN and, together with Rotary Bacchus Marsh, bought toys for the children for Christmas. Since then there have been more than two dozen van and trailer loads of donations delivered by members and cartage contractors.

Eastern Emergency Network has helped by collecting larger items with their truck, which was funded by Rotary Balwyn. With refugees coming from Ukraine and other countries, AMES and Bakhtar are also helping them, and we hope to arrange help through Bakhtar and WERN for families being settled in the west of Melbourne.

Rotary Canterbury has delivered some 20,000 meals, Rotary Glenferrie members have donated goods and cash to help fund transport costs, and other Rotarians and community groups, often through Facebook posts, are involved.

New arrivals come with very little in the way of possessions, and the community response to help them has been overwhelming. AMES Australia arranges visas, registers new arrivals with Centrelink, and assigns housing officers to help find appropriate housing after temporary accommodation. Bakhtar helps with familiarisation, education, cultural and other services.

Rotary helped significantly in the first quarter of 2022 by identifying a depot in North Balwyn through the Uniting Church, and a warehouse facility in Noble Park provided by the Greater Dandenong Council.

Regular feedback from Bakhtar outlines priority family needs. The sustainable outcome will be the establishment of many productive Australian citizens.

I will be a guest speaker at Rotary Camberwell on Wednesday, 10th August where I will fully outline the project. On 10th September  the District Governor Amanda Wendt and volunteers will visit the North Balwyn depot and help sort and pack clothing ready for transport to the Noble Park warehouse.