Diocese is offering relief where it’s needed

In July this year Bishop Bill advised the establishment of a new agency, the Development and Relief Agency (DARA).

DARA’s purpose is to support those in our community who suffer distress, alienation and helplessness resulting from social disadvantage in its various forms.

Initially DARA has responsibility for two key outreach services:

  • DARA’s Van, formerly Community Care Van, and
  • Refugee Hub, formerly Penola House and Refugee Service.

Through these services DARA seeks to provide:

  • Practical assistance in response to immediate daily needs
  • An opportunity for socialisation to reduce the effects of isolation and loneliness
  • A caring, supportive and respectful environment to help restore and build self-worth
  • Access to educational and life skills programs to improve the ability to deal with day to day issues as well as self-development.

The van that is now DARA’s Van – with the help of generous volunteers – has been supporting those who are homeless or in difficult circumstances each Saturday afternoon at Islington Park. This service is well known amongst the community members who seek its services.

In its expanded role DARA’s Van extends the provision of food to those in need in other areas, including Anna Bay, Raymond Terrace and Maitland, with more services to be introduced.

Two important developments with DARA’s Van have been the sponsoring of Orange Sky Australia with its dedicated Laundry Van into the region and the appointment of a permanent Van Co-ordinator, Baden Ellis, whom many will know from his work with the youth of the diocese and the pastoral placement program. Baden has commenced managing the logistics of the Van and food supply and co-ordinating volunteer teams and site supervision.

DARA’s Van provides a volunteering opportunity for those who feel they could assist. Vacancies exist in Raymond Terrace and Maitland.

The mobility of both DARA’s and Orange Sky’s Vans enables service to areas not served by existing fixed services. It also allows the provision of services outside business hours.

I’ve been impressed by the wonderful reaction to the expansion of these services and the encouragement from businesses, Councils, Local Police Commands and the community generally. Many are keen to volunteer and the clients are now starting to see the services on site regularly and to attend in increasing numbers.

Refugee Hub continues to support the many and varied needs of newly arrived families as they attempt to resettle in a new country and culture.

Dedicated staff and volunteers have for many years offered a place of welcome and assistance. They have been able to resolve challenges confronting the clients from small issues to complex matters.

One of the major obstacles to assimilation is the language barrier. This has major implications for employment-seeking and dealing with the various challenges that occur in life.

Refugee Hub volunteer tutors have for many years run classes that assist with conversational English to support students of the AMEP/SEE programs the formal classes provided as part of resettlement packages.

A review of the existing programs has been undertaken to ensure they are meeting the identified needs of the refugee and newly arrived community. From this review a number of new programs is being introduced and planned for the future. A language program more focused on the needs of those seeking employment is a priority.

The need for advocacy and case work continues and keeps staff very busy.

For more information regarding opportunities to assist with DARA’s Van or the Refugee Hub, please visit DARA's website or contact DARA by phone at 4979 1142.

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Barry Urwin Image
Barry Urwin

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