Families and individuals who have recently settled in Australia after being evacuated from Afghanistan were welcomed to Bondi Beach last week as Waverley Council hosted a picnic day as part of Settlement Services International’s Welcome Project.
The Welcome Project is an initiative that seeks to build a “sense of belonging and connection for newcomers” to Australia by encouraging newcomers to explore their communities by visiting different places across their region. Newcomers last Wednesday were provided with a picnic, a surf safety talk by Bondi lifeguards and a walk across the promenade.
“Visiting the iconic Bondi Beach is a great opportunity to introduce a significant part of Australian culture to recent arrivals who may not have yet travelled to this part of our beautiful city,” Community Engagement Manager at Settlement Services International Kat O’Neill said.
Following the Taliban takeover earlier this year, the Federal Government dedicated 3,000 of its 13,750 annual humanitarian visas to those fleeing Afghanistan, with priority being given to people already with family in Australia, persecuted minorities, women and children. The Morrison Government also committed to allowing Afghans on temporary visas to remain indefinitely. Both the British and Canadian governments unveiled plans to welcome 20,000 special refugee and humanitarian visas in response to the takeover.
Waverley Council this year released its new Cultural Diversity Strategy, which prioritised supporting vulnerable communities and providing safe and welcoming public spaces to its community. While recognising that newcomers to the area present “particular challenges in providing accessible and engaging information”, the report committed to “increase understanding of Waverley’s diverse community” to form an increasingly accepting environment.
“The Waverley local government area is home to people from all around the world,” Waverley Council General Manager Emily Scott said. “To be part of a project that helps people feel connected is very special.”
In October, the Federal Government announced a $27.1 million Afghan settlement support package to help evacuees settle into their lives in Australia.
The package involves $8 million in grant funding to support community-led organisations, $6.4 million to increase legal assistance and support the transitioning of Temporary Human Stay visa holders to permanent pathways, $4.8 million to employment coaching and mentoring to skilled evacuees and $7.9 million to increase availability and capacity of specialist services for those in need of trauma or torture mental health support.
Children invited to Bondi were also catered for, with the nearby United Iluka Early Learning Centre providing activities to help introduce the newcomers to Bondi Beach.