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Aged care provider hopes to open doors to others in need

Although the Australian Government promised last year to resettle an additional 12,000 Syrian refugees, recent figures released by the Government show only 3532 of these people are now settled in Australia despite 6678 visas being issued.

St Vincent’s Health hopes to give refugees an option of living in one of its villages (Source: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com)
St Vincent’s Health hopes to give refugees an option of living in one of its villages (Source: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com)

The Government confirms another 6293 people have been interviewed and assessed as meeting threshold requirements for a visa, and they are awaiting the outcome of health, character and security checks.

At the initial call out, Victoria offered to take around one third of the 12,000 people, although as yet, Victoria’s intake is nowhere near this. A number of organisations put their hand up to provide accommodation for these additional refugees, including St Vincent’s Health.

Subject to planning approval, this offer will give refugees an option of living in one of the 60 newly renovated units at St Vincent’s Care Services’ Eltham Village.

Under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme, currently only people over the age of 65 can live in the village. If the planning application is successful to allow any aged person to live there, it’s expected the empty units will house around 100 women and children.

St Vincent’s Health purchased the aged care village, formally known as Eltham Retirement Centre, last year. The accommodation allocated for refugees was empty and unused and had fallen into disrepair.

“We are not taking social housing out of the market,” stresses a spokesman, who confirms the decision to house refugees in the disused units was proposed and passed by the St Vincent’s Board as the organisation was very passionate about caring for the most vulnerable in our society.

The plan to house the Syrian and Iraqi refugees is a short-term proposal aimed at helping them acclimatise to their new home and build up their community links and rental history. The spokesperson points out they are then better able to move into the private rental market – as well as secure employment – in the years ahead.

The spokesperson also highlight other aspects, such as intergenerational living, may bring additional benefits to the community.

The organisation plans for the site to return to its former purpose of providing affordable housing for older Australians.

“After two years, the units will revert back to housing for older Australians on lower incomes,” the spokesman confirms.

While the spokesman says the local community is supportive and welcoming of refugees, the proposal has been met with some opposition on social media with several Facebook groups protesting against it. Local media reports also claim some residents, who wished to remain anonymous, have been scared to speak out against allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees to lease units as they fear they will be victimised.

The spokesman confirms St Vincent’s is currently waiting for approval for the planning permit application. There is also no definite date any for when the refugees would move in.

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