Afghan refugees arrive in Canberra to find a citywide network of support

Lottie Twyford 15 October 2021 27
HelpingACT president Mohammed Ali with volunteers

HelpingACT president Mohammed Ali has been one of the driving forces supporting newly arrived Afghan refugees to Canberra. Photo: Michael Weaver.

It’s estimated more than 50 Afghan refugees and evacuees have arrived in Canberra during the past few months as the situation has worsened in their home country.

HelpingACT president Mohammed Ali says his organisation is dedicated to providing the necessary support to people who have recently arrived, whether it’s with food, companionship or other services they require.

“There’s no room for complacency,” he says. “Food security has to be a certainty and we never say no.”

Some estimates suggest the number of Afghan refugees could rise to more than 70 in the coming weeks, however such information is highly confidential and exact numbers are only held by organisations such as the Australian Red Cross.

Mohammed says for most of these families it can be a struggle to have been uprooted from their country and culture, and HelpingACT’s mission is to welcome them and ensure settling into Canberra is as smooth as possible.

Among HelpingACT’s ranks is an Afghan volunteer who can easily communicate with the families, and Mohammed says many can also speak his mother tongue, Urdu, as well.


READ ALSO: Love from afar: Canberra woman supporting female migrants here and in Afghanistan


HelpingACT is well versed in lending a hand to refugees and migrants in Canberra. Mohammed estimates around 70-80 per cent of the people accessing their services are refugees and migrants.

Street pantries, such as those at Havelock House, Companion House and the Early Morning Centre are often restocked by the HelpingACT team.

Mohammed says each week the team of around 35 volunteers prepare food packs which are then distributed to people in need.

“We fill them with fruits, veggies and some Aussie faves such as Tim Tams, as well as long-life products,” he says.

During COVID-19 lockdown, the need for HelpingACT’s services quickly intensified, and when US troops pulled out of Kabul, Afghanistan, and the mass evacuation began, Mohammed and his team prepared for another increase.

At first, only 14 families were intended to arrive, but this quickly grew.

Nazmul Hasan with halal meals

Nazmul Hasan has been delivering free halal meals to people in need throughout the ACT’s COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Nazmul Hasan.

Other familiar faces have also got involved with the current drive to support newly arrived Afghan refugees. Among them is Nazmul Hasan, who self-funded the delivery of hot halal meals to people in need during the ACT’s lockdown.

Mohammed and Nazmul are close friends who work together to get families what they need – whether it’s a scooter for a child, a hot meal or fresh fruit and vegetables once a week.

Mohammed says he’s grateful for the support of organisations such as the Australian Red Cross and the ACT Government, as well as the many volunteers who have enabled such a high level of support for the Afghan refugees who have left their country in such a traumatic way.

He also thanks the Canberra community and ABC Radio for their generous support of HelpingACT’s cause.

HelpingACT will continue to provide support to the Afghan families and those who need it, even now that lockdown restrictions are lifted.

If you or anyone you know requires help, Mohammed Ali asks that you contact HelpingACT via 0404 947 260, or visit the organisation’s website to fill in a request form. He says help is always available.

You can also donate to Nazmul Hasan’s ‘Hot Meal Support’ GoFundMe.


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27 Responses to Afghan refugees arrive in Canberra to find a citywide network of support
Nicole McMahon Nicole McMahon 9:28 pm 20 Oct 21

Love our community and welcome

Dwayne Still Dwayne Still 6:27 am 19 Oct 21

Lucky to escape

Chris Durban Chris Durban 8:20 pm 18 Oct 21

A warm welcome, my best wishes for their future lives here. I hope they settle in and find peace and happiness 🤗

Cheryl Clare Riordan Cheryl Clare Riordan 7:11 pm 18 Oct 21

What a lovely photo of gratitude and relief .

Peter Graves Peter Graves 6:51 pm 18 Oct 21

Some of the negative comments here seem to have forgotten why we are welcoming Afghan refugees (or any refugees, for that matter). We had a military presence in Afghanistan for 20 years and 412 of our soldiers died there.

That did not stop the Taliban taking over – again. The nay-sayers should also look up the troubled place of Hazaras – persecuted in their own land, because of their religious beliefs.

That’s why we welcome Afghans here – as we did for all those who fled South Vietnam after 1975. Remember those fleeing the outcomes of that war ?

Or those on The TAMPA in 2001 ? We welcome all those with a well-founded fear of persecution.

    Peter Graves Peter Graves 6:52 pm 18 Oct 21

    Sorry – the number of our soldiers who died in Afghanistan was 41 (not that “412”)

Maria Clare Maria Clare 4:33 pm 18 Oct 21

Welcome to our beautiful country. I hope you see many smiling faces with hands held out to help.

Quintin Cooper Quintin Cooper 2:43 pm 18 Oct 21

Awesome, I’m glad we’re helping them!😊

Megan Hogan Megan Hogan 2:33 pm 18 Oct 21

Thanks for the fantastically positive story The RiotACT. Shame about the negativity coming from the comparatively massively privileged. One of the signs of an advanced civilisation is that they can extend empathy and support to others who are not “one of them”.

    Angela Jackson Angela Jackson 6:44 pm 18 Oct 21

    It’s becoming more and more clear that the human race has yet to reach the stage of being an advanced civilisation. 😉

Diane Creasey Diane Creasey 2:21 pm 18 Oct 21

That would be right, there’s so many Australian born people that go homeless by no choice of there own, are waiting on the list to be accepted by housing, and to find out that refugees have more of advantage than an Australian born. How about our government look after their own before people from overseas.

Cassie Cunningham Cassie Cunningham 1:58 pm 18 Oct 21

Yet you won’t let regional travel happen?! And there’s plenty of Australians suffering?!

Michael Dennis Michael Dennis 1:27 pm 18 Oct 21

I agree the government should look after their own FIRST!!!!!!!!

Graham Cox Graham Cox 12:42 pm 18 Oct 21

How are we taking these people in when we barely have housing for our current population? Why are non Australians given priority over everyone else? Sure, they need help BUT so too do actual Australians.

Debora Gyllien Debora Gyllien 12:09 pm 18 Oct 21

and yet some of us who have been living here for decades and searching for support have found none.

Perry Alopex Perry Alopex 10:05 am 18 Oct 21

Nice! I can only imagine that trying to settle in Canberra would be pretty rough. It's got one of the highest costs for living in the country.

Peter Manna Peter Manna 9:57 am 18 Oct 21

They will think this is paradise lol

Amie Doolan Amie Doolan 9:20 am 18 Oct 21

Where have these 50 people been housed? Are there local families taking them in, are they living in hotels or have they been provided with government housing?

Helping ACT Helping ACT 8:38 am 18 Oct 21

Hi Jenny thank you. Let us keep helping. Humanity needs it.

Jenny Mason Jenny Mason 7:43 am 18 Oct 21

Congratulations and many thanks for all your hard work, for many, many year, Mohammed Ali!

Roseanne Howes Roseanne Howes 6:51 am 18 Oct 21

Congratulations on your efforts being recognised Mohammed Ali. #SLABSFORHEROES is a proud supporter.

    Helping ACT Helping ACT 8:43 am 18 Oct 21

    Roseanne Howes I am proud of Slabsforheroes too. A history written by them couple of years ago. I am part of them.

高島智矢 高島智矢 10:13 pm 17 Oct 21

Welcome, work hard and good luck.

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