GREATER Bendigo teachers are calling for more support for families who are seeking asylum during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of teachers and staff members from St Francis of the Fields Primary School in Strathfieldsaye signed onto the Refugee Council of Australia public statement this week.
Catholic Education Office Sandhurst staff members also signed onto the letter. The statement, which was released during the National Week of Solidarity with people seeking asylum, called on the federal government to extend financial and medical support to refugee families.
St Francis of the Fields’ teacher Helen McCarthy was one of those who signed onto the statement.
“I believe very strongly in social justice,” she said. “For me, that’s about every person having equality of opportunity and the right to all resources so they can live a full and productive life.
“I believe in the dignity of every person, so I believe that those of us who are supported and assisted need to stand up for those who aren’t.
“That comes from my faith background as well as how I was brought up. For me, it’s the right thing to do.”
Fellow St Francis of the Fields’ teacher Kate Ellis also signed onto the letter. “I am very passionate about social justice and I believe this is the right thing to be doing,” she said.
Ms McCarthy said there was a strong emphasis on social justice at the Strathfieldsaye school. “We have been closely connected with Caritas – the international aid and development organisation of the Catholic Church in Australia,” she said.
“As a school, we have worked very closely with Caritas. Part of that is bringing to the forefront Australian issues and international stories. “We focus on the principal Catholic teachings, one of which is the focus on the dignity of each person. With that in mind, this campaign is something that we would be interested in as a staff and school community.”
Research commissioned by the Refugee Council of Australia predicted 19,000 refugees and people seeking asylum would lose their jobs in the pandemic and 14,000 would become homeless. Ms McCarthy said the federal government needed to provide more emergency funding to support the growing needs of people seeking asylum, as well as those on temporary visas and international students.
“All people who live in Australia should have adequate access to medical care and income protection, especially while the COVID-19 crisis is happening,” she said. “If the federal government can provide that financial safety net, it would help these vulnerable people from falling into destitution or homelessness.”