When Anita stepped off the plane in Sydney she was completely alone, and didn’t know a single person in Australia. To cheer herself up she headed straight for Circular Quay, wanting to set eyes on the Opera House. “That first day I saw the symbol of Sydney,” she remembers. “I really loved it, Australia is a really beautiful country.”
Living at a backpackers hostel, Anita planned to get a job as soon as she could. “I spoke with people and told them I needed to work, they said I needed a visa. I didn’t realise!” Anita hadn’t known it was illegal for her to work, and when she found out she was terrified – her money had almost run out and she had nowhere to go.
Finding a home at Providence House
Anita heard about the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC), Googled the address, and visited the very next day. She was helped by gentle and understanding caseworkers who soon found her accommodation at Providence House.
“Moving into Providence House was the happiest moment in my life. I was so excited to get in,” she says. “The house was so nice, huge, with a hall, a beautiful kitchen with two bedrooms, so clean, and it had aircon – unbelievable for me!”
While living there she applied for a protection visa, studied for a certificate in aged-care nursing, and made friends with the other asylum seekers living in the building. The Providence House residents would cook and eat together, clean the building’s shared spaces, practise their English, swap stories and travel to appointments at the ASC.
Ready to give something back
After a period of calm and stability, Anita was able to move out of Providence House and into her own apartment in Lidcombe – and she’s the one paying the rent now!
She completed her aged-care nursing certificate and wants to do a community services diploma in the future. “I really want to do something for Australian citizens, because this country has helped me a lot,” she explains. “Australia is the best country in this world. It’s a part of my heart.”
“This country has welcomed me, let me live here, get an education… it’s all because of you Australian people.”
About the Asylum Seekers Housing Program
More than 70% of asylum seekers receive no government support, leaving them at risk of homelessness. The Foundation formed a partnership with the Asylum Seekers Centre to provide safe accommodation and welfare services to dozens of displaced people every year.
In 2014 the Foundation invested in the purchase and renovation of a residential building, Providence House, in Sydney’s Inner West. This residence now provides emergency and transitional housing for asylum seekers facing homelessness, along with support services including medical and legal assistance, education and training, and job search support.
Main image: Anita with Asylum Seekers Centre CEO Frances Rush.
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