1 May 2024

Canberra women work to help war-torn Gaza family settle safely here

| Sally Hopman
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Canberra women Barbie Robinson and Barb Baikie are organising a fund-raising lunch for a Gaza family that has just arrived in Canberra. The lunch is on this Sunday at Barb’s property, Terroux, Hall. Photo: Richard Scherer.

They are a family of seven. Two parents and five children, ranging in age from five to 16, living in one room in a Canberra house, but they are safe. Safe from the hell that is Gaza.

Believed to be one of the first families from the war-ravaged region to make it to Canberra, the family secured a bridging visa because of the strong family connection they already have here – and because, according to a counsellor from the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS) Iman al Alami, “it was a matter of life and death”.

“Because they had family here,” she said, “they could apply for a tourist visa. But when their situation was explained to Immigration, they were granted a bridging visa.”

She said the bridging visa was good, but the family remains in limbo, not accepted as permanent residents as their situation, like all others, is determined on a case-by-case basis.

“They could be allowed to stay for a year, or it could be indefinite,” Ms al Alami said.

“The parents were teachers in Gaza. Because of the situation there, it was really life or death for them. Over there, you can’t guarantee if you’ll still be alive in the next minute.

“Everyone is trying to flee Gaza … they were just some of the lucky ones.”

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Ms al Alami said the family needed a sense of security.

“They are grateful to have the room in their relative’s house, but they really need their own home for the healing process to begin.”

Canberra’s tight rental market is not helping, nor is the fact that they have no rental history. They can’t work as teachers until they pass the Australian qualifications test and learn English – although, Ms al Alami said, they were keen to take on any job that would help bring money into the family.

She said the priority was to raise money to help the family pay a bond for a rental home and start rent payments.

“What we need to help them with is stability. If they feel secure, they’ll feel better, but how can they get used to a new environment if they don’t have the basic necessities? I believe they will do better if they have a place to call home.”

Two Canberra women who heard of the family’s plight, Barbie Robinson and Barb Baikie, have arranged a fund-raising event for the family this Sunday, 5 May, at Terroux near Hall.

“In a time of unbearable sadness, many of us are asking what we can do to help,” they said in an invitation to the people of Canberra.

woman dancing in garden with child

Dancer Peng Hsiao-yin shows off her skills in the Terroux peace gardens where the fund-raising lunch will be held on Sunday. Photo: Barbie Robinson.

“We invite you to a fund-raising lunch, our small gesture of friendship to a family who have come here as refugees from Gaza and who live in our community.”

The lunch will be held at Terroux, the home of Barbara Baikie and Peter Fletcher, a 60-hectare property near Hall.

The property has been transformed from degraded grazing land with the planting of thousands of trees and now features a peace garden with garden rooms, groves and plantations.

Guests are invited to come dressed in white for peace and yellow for light. Entertainment will be provided by dancer Peng Hsiao-yin of Danceology and jazz duo Emm English and Jesse Hudson.

Tickets are $100 per person. All money raised is going to the family from Gaza to help them secure rental housing in Canberra. Bookings required. Donations are also welcome.

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Chris Fisher10:44 am 02 May 24

Hopefully the teachers can share details of the school curriculum in Gaza.

Capital Retro1:21 pm 03 May 24

It was revealed a few years ago by British journalist Ross Kemp. It’s on the net.

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