A Buddy Bench for Refugee Service

A warm welcome for refugees has always been extended by the Oakley family. Allan and Barbara Oakley have personally supported and helped refugee families settle into Newcastle for many years.

They remain in regular contact with the people they welcomed, celebrating Christmas, weddings and graduations with the refugees they have helped. Just as the Refugee Service is both a place of welcome and friendship, so the bench is indicative of Barbara and Allan’s openness and welcome for those newly arrived families they met.

This tradition continued with the dedication of a welcome bench at the front door of the CatholicCare Refugee Service in Mayfield. The bench seat was initiated by a donation from Barbara Oakley in memory of Allan who passed away late last year. It was a fitting tribute to Allan’s work and is perpetuated by a plaque attached to the back of the bright multi-coloured bench.

The bench seat was brought to life through the guidance of the Ethnic Community Council (EEC) of Newcastle & the Hunter Region and the skills and hard work of the ECC Men’s Shed.  Barbara and other family members were present along with members of the Men’s Shed and CatholicCare staff for the bench’s delivery and installation. Morning tea followed and stories of Allan and Barbara’s extended family were shared.

“The colourful Buddy Bench is aptly positioned right outside the front door of the Refugee Service,” said Co-ordinator Refugee Service, Tania Kelland, “and is already a welcoming feature to the multicultural clients who utilise our services.  We shared a beautiful day with the Oakley Family.”

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Barry Urwin Image
Barry Urwin

Barry is the Manager of Business and Community Engagement for the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese.

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