Children at the Centre

“They did it. They got here for their children. They fight really hard these parents. They do it for their kids. And so do we as a community of support.” Kerry O’Neill, Health Clinic Manager, ASC

Felicia Paul and Antoinette Uwera, ASC’s Family and Children team.

Every day children of all ages visit the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC) with their families. For older children who are new to Australia, the wait time to start school can seem like forever until their bridging visas are secured.

Children coming to the Centre have often endured extreme and difficult experiences in their transition to a new country. Like their parents, many children are dealing with serious trauma. They may have lost or left behind family relatives, parents, brothers and sisters. Their education has been disrupted. Many are hearing and learning English for the first time.

Depending on what visa families arrive into Australia on when they apply for protection, there is often at least a three-month wait before bridging visas are granted. It is not until this time that children can access school without the need to pay international school fees, which their parents cannot afford.

Children don’t understand why they can’t go to school and you see it in their body language. They lose their spark and vitality, they become sad. It’s astonishing though how quickly primary aged kids bounce back once they start school. The energy is there again and the relief for their parents is really tangible.

In 2017 ASC started its Family and Children’s program. We work closely with government and non-government education providers to ensure children’s access to school. We work collaboratively to provide each person, child and their family with the supports they need to improve their health and well-being.

While children are waiting to go to school, we organise English classes for the family at ASC and work with educators to develop school readiness resources, which help but doesn’t make up for their gaps in education.

Children attend our swimming, recreation and excursion programs and we connect families to their local sporting and community groups. We assist with entry to school, help complete forms and pay for waiver application fees, school uniforms and basics to start school. We help children in high school quickly access Intensive Language programs.

Please give generously so children and their families can thrive and feel a real sense of belonging in our community.

“Developing trust and a feeling of safety takes time. It’s the reason we refer children to experts in trauma counselling and family therapy. Loneliness is a big thing and we work closely with our Family and Children team at the Centre, to make sure the kids are getting playtime and time to just be children. Young children are really adaptive. Older ones, particularly adolescents, face additional struggles.” Kerry O’Neill, Health Clinic Manager, ASC

When a single parent family of four arrived homeless at ASC, the services worked together to find housing and provide financial assistance and food. The eldest child, as is often the case, took on adult responsibilities and it was the second child, Jabari*, that concerned us greatly. The traumatic events he had witnessed impacted his whole being. Jabari was completely withdrawn.

Our Health Clinic arranged specialist trauma counselling and when Jabari started high school, we worked closely with the school counsellor for support. It took over six months before Jabari started to interact with others and smile. It felt like the sun was starting to shine for him again. *name changed

Lithograph of a house

Younger children at the Centre often experience attachment difficulties associated with their past trauma, and what their parents went through. The children have little to entertain them and become very attached to their mothers because they are afraid. Socialisation with other children as well as organised time away from their parents helps to build their confidence.

We introduce families to free community activities and we help parents access childcare and preschool. There, children can grow friendships and improve their English. It can be challenging in the beginning but over time the whole family benefits from it, particularly when parents need to focus on finding employment.

ASC provides families with food, health care, employment assistance and a range of valuable social supports. We offer limited financial relief to families without any means of income. We have some provision to provide emergency housing and can provide some support for securing rental properties.  

Please donate today to give people seeking asylum access to the basic supports they need to be able to live with dignity in our community.

Click here to download our brochure ‘Children at the Centre’.