The Eltham Project: A place to call home for refugees

Eltham Project

The Eltham Project: A place to call home for refugees

From November 2016 to October 2018, CatholicCare in partnership with St Vincent’s Health Australia ran The Eltham Refugee Housing and Support Project.

The project provided Syrian and Iraqi refugees with affordable housing. They provided 42 low-cost units that were previously a part of an aged care facility.

Senior Manager, Lisa Foley spoke about the need for refugee support and the success of the project in Eltham.

“People were horrified by the displacement of the Syrian and Iraqis due to the war and wanted to help,” she said.

It was more than just work; it was a mission.

Despite protests in the wider Australian community, the Eltham community stood together. Community meetings saw local organisations get on board and donate resources.

“They set up Welcome to Eltham which was a Facebook group and people started donating items to furnish the units,” Lisa explained.

We talked to Lara (pseudonym in use) about her experience settling in Australia through the Eltham Project. Lara is from Damascus, Syria, where she studied and worked professionally.

She has a love of classical music and speaks fluent Arabic and French.

Lara arrived to Australia in 2016 before moving to Melbourne and starting to learn English. She worked as a volunteer with the Australian Syrian Charity where she worked with newly arrived refugees.

She then worked as an interpreter for some of the residents at Eltham on their visits to medical centres, government services and for their social group meetings.

“It’s not easy to start a new life, especially for the aged people or the people who are over there for their whole lives,” Lara said.

“When refugees arrive, they need a community to explain and to help them with their new life… the language, the transport, even the food. It makes life easier.

They support us and they give us everything we need, including materials and love, and they allow us to keep our dignity.

Eltham ProjectParticipants celebrating the conclusion of the Eltham Project

Lara spoke about the cultural shocks she experienced when she arrived: the weather, the language and most of all, the multiculturalism in Melbourne.

The Settlement Engagement Transition Support program is providing ongoing support for the changing needs of the Eltham Project’s participants.

Read the stories of other Eltham refugees below:
Venus and Janet
Najwa and Issa
Hanna and Khani


Clare Manera

Clare is a third-year Global Studies student at UTS and an aspiring writer with a keen interest in reading and sharing stories. She loves travelling to new places and meeting interesting people. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: editor@culturalpulse.com.au