Community Refugee Welcome Centre
The Community Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC) was opened in 2017. It is the only welcome centre of its kind in Sydney NSW.
The CRWC provides a place for connection between the local community and refugees, and people seeking asylum through a range of programs in a safe and supportive space.
The Community Refugee Welcome Centre is a creative and empowering space where some fantastic outcomes have been achieved for refugees and the wider community. Read some of the success stories.
From Asylum Seeker to a Community Zumba Teacher
Sophie is from Syria. She left her war-torn country for Lebanon before successfully applying for asylum in Australia. She says her family was comparatively lucky, ‘We are here now. It took a year,” she said. Like many other Community Refugee Welcome Centre participants, Sophie has embraced opportunities to re-build her life in Sydney, participating in a course to become a lifeguard (offered to newly-arrived asylum seekers by the Royal Life Saving Society of NSW in partnership with Inner West Council) and has since also become a qualified ZUMBA instructor.
Join Sophie for free ZUMBA classes at the Community Refugee Welcome Centre each Saturday morning from 8:30am to 9:30am starting from 28 September 2019.
The human rights approach undertaken by the Community Refugee Welcome Centre has supported many participants, like Sophie, to undergo training to benefit the wider community — helping participants to become community leaders.
Enriching the lives of local volunteers
Kathy Tribe has been volunteering at the Community Refugee Welcome Centre for almost 12 months.
“For me three words to describe the centre would be: welcoming, accepting and inclusive. You feel like you're coming home to a family when you come here. It's a really welcoming, non-judgemental, positive environment. It's called the Community Refugee Welcome Centre for that reason: it's focused on welcoming both refugees and Inner West locals— it’s about equals coming together,” Ms. Tribe said.
“Everyone here is accepting of each other. We’re all free to be ourselves. We connect by participating in shared activities, where we give things a go together… and have a laugh along the way! We focus on the positives and support each other. The grounds (where the centre is located) are also very beautiful and restorative,” she said.
“One of the main transformative things we do is the simple act of sharing a meal. It allows an opportunity for in depth conversation and connection. It's also a chance to learn the richness of each other's cultures through food and cultural ceremonies… like how to make Arabic coffee!” she said.
As a volunteer Ms. Tribe said she has enjoyed meeting and getting to know different people the most, “I look forward to coming here each week…I’ve gotten so much out of it. It’s been a wonderful opportunity,” she said.
The Tapestry Friendship Project
The Tapestry Friendship Project took place at the Community Refugee Welcome Centre over a period of 20 weeks in 2019.
Local residents and asylum seekers worked together on creating small tapestries to create a large tapestry to make a two seater sofa.
The project celebrates the contribution people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds make to Australia while trying to:
- nurture and cement friendships between people
- break down barriers and social isolation
- provide a recreational, therapeutic and creative practice for people
- increase cultural awareness
- create community connections
Participants directed the design of the project working with designers, Laura Campbell and Tasman Munro.
The project was facilitated by artist Sayd Mahmod Reza and managed Inner West Council.
The Inner West and visitors to the area will have a constant reminder of the project through the sofa (pictured left - photo credit Saskia Wilson).
The project was an initiative of the Open Inner West Program and a partnership between Inner West Council and the Community Refugee Welcome Centre.
It was based on an original project by Tasman Munro, Jane Theau and Sayd Mahmod Reza at the Auburn Centre for Community.
Watch the Tapestry Friendship Project video
See how the project celebrates the contribution people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds make to Australia — as well as nurturing and cementing friendships between people from these communities and local residents surrounding the Centre.
The Melody of Humanity
The Melody of Humanity is a cross-cultural and multilingual music video project which was unveiled on Human Rights Day 2020.
The video features 22 artists – newly arrived refugees, Aboriginal community members and local Inner West musicians – who all bring elements from their culture to the project.
Watch the video below, and read this media release for more information on the project.
About the Centre
How did the Centre come about?
The CRWC has been operating since March 2017 through a partnership between Settlement Services International (SSI), Inner West Council and the Catholic Diocese of Sydney.
Why is the Centre in the Inner West?
Set in the grounds of Callan park, blessed by first nations people who have cared for the land, the grounds continue to be a healing space for people seeking refuge.
It’s where the locals are known to stand up for human rights and to unite for social justice.
It’s also on the grounds of the former mental health institute, known for its healing environment.
What is the vision of the CRWC?
For an independently refugee-led cultural and educational hub, that is safe, inclusive and accessible to the refugee community.
The centre is a space that facilitates and promotes opportunities for connection between the local community and refugees, and people seeking asylum. It’s based on a human rights approach.
What happens at the Centre?
The Centre creates a welcoming space for people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, including providing programs and activities.
Current day the centre is attended mostly by vulnerable Syrian and Iranian women — and the activities undertaken have been identified, planned and wherever possible are led by refugees themselves. These include:
- English conversation
- wellbeing and skill development/capacity development activities such as arts, storytelling, dance, cooking, tapestry, learn to swim
- pathways to employment through TAFE outreach and training
- refugee-led events
- opportunities for social connection with Inner West locals – the model brings together refugee community and local community members to connect communities
Who runs the centre?
The centre is run by an onsite coordinator (part time). Programs and activities are developed with refugee community members, co-designed, and with leadership being supported from within the refugee community - so activities are meaningful and empowering.
Local volunteers support the programs which include English Conversational Language, Cooking, Exercise and Zumba. The Volunteers have received human rights-based training for working with refugees and asylum seekers.
The centre is steered by a Community Reference Committee made up of representatives working in the refugee and asylum seekers space– these include:
- Humanitarian Hub (a collaborative project between four organisations which include the Asylum Seeker Centre, the House of Welcome, the Jesuit
Refugee Service and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service)
- Addison Road Community Centre
- ‘Thirdspace’ is a community cultural development not for profit with in depth experience working with diverse communities in capacity building projects for 30 years
- TAFE NSW
- Centre Coordinator CRWC
- Community Projects Coordinator, Inner West Council
- Settlement Services International, Art and Culture Manager
Community Refugee Welcome Centre Contacts
For more information contact:
Ingrid de Meyer - Community Projects Coordinator
Moones Mansoubi - Community Refugee welcome Centre Coordinator
Other Useful contacts
Asylum Seekers Centre
The Asylum Seekers Centre is a place of welcome and provides practical and personal support for people living in the community who are seeking asylum. Services include accommodation, legal advice, financial relief, health care, employment assistance, education, food, material aid and recreational activities.
Settlement Services International
SSI is a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other Australians to achieve their full potential. We work with all people who have experienced vulnerability, including refugees, people seeking asylum and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, to build capacity and enable them to overcome inequality.
- 2/158 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield NSW 2131
- Phone: 02 8799 6700
NSW Humanitarian Hub
The NSW Humanitarian Hub is a collaborative project between four organisations who work with refugees and people seeking asylum: The Asylum Seekers Centre, The House of Welcome, The Jesuit Refugee Service and The Refugee Advice and Casework Service.
The Hub provides a centralised website for current and prospective volunteers. By combining volunteer resources, the NSW Humanitarian Hub aims to provide the most appropriate support for those who need help.
House of Welcome
The House of Welcome provides support services including case work, employment assistance, English lessons and community programs for refugees, individuals and families who are seeking asylum.
Jesuit Refugee Service
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation, founded in 1980 as a work of the Society of Jesus (“the Jesuits”). JRS undertakes services, accompaniment and advocacy at national, regional and international levels to ensure that refugees have full rights while in exile, and to strengthen the protection afforded to refugees, internally displaced people, people seeking asylum and other forcibly displaced people.
Refugee Advice and Casework Service
The Refugee Advice and Casework Service gives advice to people seeking asylum.
If you are seeking legal advice:
- Drop in to Jesuit Refugee Service, Arrupe Place (50m to the left of Gate 1) 2 Darcy Road Westmead, on Fridays from 10am-12 noon.
- Drop in to Auburn Centre for Community, 44A Macquarie Road Auburn, on Wednesdays from 10am-12 noon.
If you cannot attend an Outreach location or your matter is urgent please contact :
Addison Road Community Centre
Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (Addi Road) is an independent not-for-profit fighting for social justice, supporting arts and culture and caring for our environment. The Centre manages a nine-acre heritage site in the heart of the Inner West, won for community use in 1976.
Find initiatives to support refugees and asylum seekers including discounted groceries at the Food Pantry, and opportunities to develop small business skills through the Street Food Markets.
The Centre in the news
Follow some of the stories from the CRWC in our news releases.