Rekindling Hope

By Gina di Paolo, Co-ordinator of the ASRC Baby Items Program

Political repression in their beloved homeland drove this couple’s decision to board a boat in search for freedom and safety. However, the drastic changes to Australia’s policies for people seeking asylum turned their hope into a living nightmare when they were forcibly sent to an off-shore detention centre in Nauru.

In 2016 the couple was transferred from Nauru to a Brisbane Detention Centre for crucial medical support that was not available on the small island nation. The young wife, pregnant with her first child, was in need of specialist care while her husband was languishing as all hope for finding safe refuge for his wife and unborn child was fading.

In January 2017 a precious daughter was born, giving the parents renewed determination to recover. Two months after the birth, the family was transferred to Community Detention in Melbourne, where they found themselves in an unfurnished house with only the few possessions they were permitted to pack in two suitcases.

By late March, St Kilda Mums responded to the family’s requests for greatly needed nursery furniture including a cot and pram, as well as other items such as a clothing pack, a linen bundle, baby toiletries, nappy bag and baby car-seat. The material aid supplied by St Kilda Mums and access to ASRC programs such as Foodbank provided this family with a lifeline that enabled them to function as family unit.

Twenty months later, the family’s visa status remained unresolved and their future was still on hold. Nevertheless, the family welcomed the arrival of a new-born son in October 2018, thereby realising the dream of completing their family unit. St Kilda Mums was able to provide ongoing support, this time in the form of a toddler bed and toddler car-seat for the first child so that the cot and reversible car-seat they had received in 2017 could be passed on to the new-born. In addition, St Kilda Mums provided boy’s cot linen and clothing pack, a bouncer, a baby sling, toiletries, breast pump kit and baby bottles.

The comprehensive support made a huge difference to this family on two fronts: it provided direct assistance that enabled the parents to provide for their two children with dignity and it helped to rekindle the couple’s hope for a kinder future.

In search of peace and acceptance

In 2012, a young woman arrived in Australia after having made the difficult decision to flee from the ethnic tensions that made peace unattainable in her own homeland. Soon after arrival, the young woman began the onerous processes of applying for a Protection Visa as she was eager to comply with the law of the land that she hoped would accept her.

The first three years passed quickly as she made good use of her work and study rights by attending English classes and finding employment. Meanwhile, the wait for her visa application to be processed continued but in the peaceful and stable environment that Melbourne provided, she became increasingly self-sufficient and able to contribute to her new community.

A little over 4 years after arriving in Australia the young woman was happily married in Melbourne and despite the fact that she was still waiting on a decision regarding her visa status, life seemed full of hope and promise. I can still recall the joy and excitement she expressed when, in March this year, she told me that they were expecting twins!

Sadly, the joy and excitement dissipated into uncertainty and anxiety in May, when the couple received worrying news about the pregnancy. Complications with the pregnancy and the uncertainty of the outcome placed enormous mental, emotional and financial pressure on the marriage.

In June, the expectant mum decided to leave the marriage and rent a unit of her own so that she could better prepare for the impending birth and care for her own health. Her living and housing conditions had once again become precarious and reliance on financial and material aid support from her father and the ASRC resumed. The future seemed full of adversity- but for the depth of love and unrelenting determination this mum maintained in the hope of bringing her babies safely into the world.

And this is where St Kilda Mums stepped in to provide all the essentials a mum needs to help her babies thrive. The long list of items included 2 bassinets, a twin pram, 2 newborn reversible car-seats, a change mat, baby bath, bouncers, baby sling, clothing packs, linen bundles, breast pump, bottles, toiletries, nappy bag, and an infant toy pack. When the expectant mum came to collect the bundle tears of amazement, joy and gratitude were shed…. and I too was deeply moved.

What would we do without St Kilda Mums?

The liaison between St Kilda Mums and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Material Aid Program officially began in January 2015 and since then, hundreds of families seeking asylum in Victoria have benefited from the essential support that St Kilda Mum provides.

Their capacity to respond to the increasing requests for assistance from families in urgent need has been extraordinary and as Co-ordinator of the ASRC Mums and Baby Items Program, I can honestly that our program would not run without them.

As a way of acknowledging our deep appreciation for the indispensable service St Kilda Mums provides our families, I would like to share stories that demonstrate the hope, peace, joy and love that St Kilda Mums packs into every request they fill. These are true stories of families who face unimaginable challenges, families who must make impossible decisions, and families who overcome incredible adversity for the love of their children.