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During a recent school holiday, two Gloucester families opened their homes to people seeking asylum in Australia, as part of the Home Among Gum Trees program.
The idea is to give refugees a little insight into how an Australian family functions and learn about their values.
The program is run as an off-shoot of the Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR), whose aim is to return compassion and humanity to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.
An Iranian family were one of the visitors who came to town and they enjoyed a short homestay with Pippa Robinson and her husband, Steve.
“Steve and I were a little nervous waiting on Gloucester Station for our Iranian guests to arrive,” Pippa said.
“I am sure our Iranian family of five were feeling equally nervous on the train. However we all had a wonderful few days together as they stayed with us at our 'home among the gumtrees,' Eagle Top.”
The family enjoyed bush-walking, picnicking, visiting a dairy farm and cooking for their hosts.
“Another family of five was also on holiday nearby and so we joined together for parties, with Persian dancing on our veranda,” Pippa said.
“We, the Australians, were pretty poor at learning the special hand movements.”
“We had the best holiday,” was the feedback given from the family after their stay.
Local coordinator, Hilary Kite said the aim is to provide hospitality for people who have been through difficult times and who are often still facing challenges as they make a life for themselves in Australia.
As one guest has said, “We feel so safe here.”
Hilary said it’s not just the guests who benefit. One of the hosts responded to her visitors’ gratitude by saying ‘Your happiness was our reward’.
Gloucester is just one of a number of regions in NSW offering this hospitality.
The NSW coordinator meets with people seeking asylum, who are living either freely in the community or in detention.
She identifies which families or individuals might benefit from such a holiday before liaising with local coordinators to make the arrangements.
Some of the program’s goals are to link asylum seekers with supporters and networks in regional and rural Australia; create understanding and friendships so regional communities have a personal way to make a difference and asylum seekers feel accepted; and to welcome asylum seekers into Australian homes and share the breakfast table so that each can dispel stereotypical ideas and fears.
If anyone is interested to find out more or how they may help in any way, please contact Hilary at email@example.com