Refugee families in the Illawarra region will receive free legal and administrative support under a new initiative created by University of Wollongong (UOW) academics called Volunteer legal support for refugees in the Illawarra.
Launching in early 2017, the program was created by Dr Niamh Kinchin and Professor Nan Seuffert from UOW’s Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC) and aims to ease the burden on local community groups who already provide important services to help refugees settle into the Australian community.
Project leader, Dr Niamh Kinchin spoke of the importance of their work, ‘Refugees, who have already faced significant difficulties regarding displacement, are faced with a new set of challenges after they arrive in Australia. Refugees often have limited English language skills and are largely unfamiliar with Australian laws and institutions. Our objective is to provide essential assistance to these families around issues such as family reunification and navigating the often complex immigration applications, forms and regulations.’
Working with community partners such as Wollongong City Council, the Illawarra Multicultural Services (IMS), Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families (SCARF), Illawarra Legal Services, Wollongong Women’s Lawyers Association and Wollongong Legal Aid, the program will also involve volunteers, local lawyers and UOW law students.
Volunteer legal support for refugees in the Illawarra was made possible by an $8,000 grant, awarded by the 2016 UOW Community Engagement Grant Scheme (CEGS). CEGS provides funding to UOW staff and students for educational, research or outreach projects that partner with Community organisations and groups. Current CEGS projects are ‘innovative, starting small and dreaming big – they create new and sustainable approaches, connections and futures.’