Staff from the Department of Human Services hope their small gesture brings huge smiles to the faces of the children of refugees and asylum seekers.
Through the One Victoria Refugee and Asylum Seeker Toy Drive, staff have distributed toys to organisations providing critical services and support to refugee and asylum seeker families across metro and rural Victoria.
Organised by Multicultural Service Officers and the Refugee and Asylum Seeker teams in Victoria, the initiative – now in its second year – supports local charities and groups that assist refugees and asylum seekers in the local area.
Maria Tsolacos, Acting Program Support Manager for Multicultural Services, said there were many challenges with leaving your life behind and moving to a new country, especially in circumstances that were often distressing.
“Children tend to face more significant challenges, and the toy drive is a small gesture to help the most vulnerable children put a smile on their face and settle into their new country,” she said.
Donations from the Northern Victoria metro offices were made to Life Without Barriers, an organisation that provides support and protection to children, young people, families and others with complex needs, who arrive in Australia seeking asylum.
In a thank you letter, staff from Life Without Barriers said it was wonderful to have so many toys, especially in the lead-up to Christmas and thanked the staff for their generosity:
“It was such an honour to see the joy the children got when they received your generous gifts. It is only with the support of people like yourselves that we are able to make this happen.”
Rural and regional officers in Victoria donated to organisations such as the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga (Albury Service Centre), and Kildonan Unity Care (Seymour and Shepparton Service Centres).
The Dandenong Service Centre donated to the Jesuran Wellness Centre, which is a new organisation in the Dandenong area offering free counselling, support services, food hampers and weekly meals to refugees and asylum seekers.
Hilda, the centre manager said it was a great joy to give the children their toys.
“As a charity centre we rely on donations and the community’s support. To be able to present the children with these wonderful gifts from the Centrelink staff was fantastic,” she said.
Multicultural Services Officer, Rick Comfort, said the program had expanded this year and he was surprised by how many toys were donated.
“The Jesuran Wellness Centre is a new service and we wanted to support them with the important work they do.
“This donation was about getting into the holiday spirit, to give generously and make sure the children felt included.”