Ironically, the Austrian Jesuits who first encountered the Ngadjuri in South Australia were asylum seekers themselves. They were expelled from Austria in 1848, which is why they led the group of German Catholic refugees aboard the SV Alfred bound for Australia. Following World War II, many Jesuits worked in camps with Latvian, Lithuanian, and Polish refugees in Germany.
Jesuit Refugee Service Australia began in 1985. JRS’s mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees, people seeking asylum and other forcibly displaced people. The organisation works with people seeking asylum in the community in Australia and with those that have been detained. JRS provides multiple services, including specialist casework support, residential accommodation, emergency financial support, legal support, employment advice, English classes, low interest loan programs, a food bank, women’s project, men’s groups, schools program and other community activities.
Jesuit Social Services also has programs that support people from migrant backgrounds, including asylum seekers and refugees, to integrate into mainstream Australian society, while keeping in touch with their cultural backgrounds. In 2014, Jesuit Social Services and Cabrini Health jointly founded the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), which seeks to create a Catholic voice for change.
The Province’s Bookends Project aims to raise awareness and prompt action right across the Province in support of asylum seekers and refugees. The Project is calling on staff in all Province’s ministries to ask themselves, ‘How can I assist in the needs of the human rights calamity of refugees and asylum seekers?’