Eltham refugees - FAQs

The Federal government made a commitment to provide humanitarian aid for refugees in September 2015 and St Vincent’s Health Australia (St Vincent’s) and CatholicCare responded to that call.

Some groups are issuing misinformation and making claims about St Vincent’s offer at the Eltham Aged Care Facility.

Council has issued these Frequently Asked Questions to clarify what is happening.

What is Council’s role regarding the refugees?

Nillumbik is a Welcome Zone for refugees and has a Welcome Refugee Policy.

While Council does not have any decision-making powers as to where refugees are housed, Nillumbik Council supports the humanitarian aid being offered by St Vincent’s and CatholicCare.

The Federal government has arrangements in place to provide a wide range of services for refugees including health, education and employment.

There are already a small number of asylum seekers in Nillumbik and there are many refugees in neighbouring Council areas.

Every day Nillumbik Council engages with a diverse range of people who make up our community – including children, families, people with disability, older people, migrants and refugees. As a result, the Shire plays an important role in protecting and promoting human rights of all people.

Council is assisting community organisations and agencies to work together to welcome the refugees and support our local residents through education and information.

Council will provide community support to the refugees in the same way that we would for anyone.

Why are refugees coming to Eltham?

St Vincent’s Health Australia and CatholicCare have joined together to help settle and support vulnerable refugees from Syria and Iraq – with priority given to women and children.

The refugees will be provided with temporary rental accommodation in 60 units on the site of St Vincent’s Care Services Eltham. These units are stand-alone and separate from the residential aged care and independent living facilities on site.

The 60 units have been vacant for a number of years and have been refurbished by St Vincent’s Care Services to make them liveable.

The refugee housing project will run for two years and then the accommodation will be transitioned to affordable housing for seniors.

How many refugees will there be?

There will be no more than 120 people (including children) accommodated in the 60 units and they will move in progressively over the coming months.

The refugees will be a mix of single women, single mothers with children or couples with one child.  There will be no single men moving into the accommodation.

Who will tell us when the refugees are coming and how?

St Vincent’s Health Australia and CatholicCare have informed Council that they will let residents of the aged care facility know as people arrive.

Is ratepayer’s money being used to house these refugees?

No. St Vincent’s Health Australia and CatholicCare are fully funding this project.

Who approved the planning application for units at St Vincent's for refugees?

Housing the refugees requires a planning scheme amendment beyond the powers of Council.

St Vincent's made an application to the State Minister for Planning to provide an exemption under the planning regulations to house the refugees on a temporary basis.

What services are available for refugees in Eltham?

Support services for the refugees will be provided at the site by CatholicCare.

The location of the units makes it ideal for families as they have easy access to public transport, to other support services which may be required, to shops, parks and recreation and to a welcoming community.

It's not fair to put refugees with elderly people, they are scared and this should be their twilight years of enjoyment.

The decision to provide accommodation to refugees at 43 Diamond Street was made by St Vincent's and CatholicCare.

St Vincent's and CatholicCare has a range of programs to help with the integration between the two groups of residents.

If you require further information contact St Vincent’s Care Services 9431 0100.

What about the safety of the residents and local community?

People coming to Australia as humanitarian refugees have been through extensive screening by the United Nations and the Australian Government and they are permanent residents of Australia.

What is a “waitlist”?

Under the Federal Government’s ‘My Aged Care’ system, if there are no available service providers when you are looking for services, you can be put on a central waitlist. This waitlist can be viewed by all service providers. When a service becomes available, a service provider can contact you.

You can also use the waitlist if you want a particular service provider but they currently have no available services. This may mean a longer wait.

Why doesn’t Council stop/ban protests against the refugees?

The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 allow people to conduct a protest and protect their right to peaceful assemblies and freedom of expression.

Council does not have the ability to refuse access to open public space. In some cases, some open public space areas require a permit for use but if the application to use the space meets all requirements then we cannot refuse the permit.

It is the responsibility of the organisers to ensure any event is conducted peacefully and in accordance with the Charter.

I’d like to volunteer/ our community group would like to help the refugees - what can we do?

Anyone wishing to volunteer or offer assistance can contact CatholicCare on 03 8710 9600.

Who can I contact for more information?

For more information contact St Vincent’s Care Services 9431 0100 or to register an interest in volunteering or supporting the project please email elthamproject@ccam.org.au