A pilot project is under development to help refugees find jobs and homes in the Hastings.
It involves bringing together a coalition of like-minded people, linking Sydney and the Mid North Coast, as they work towards filling aged care and disability support jobs with refugees seeking a move to the country.
The Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group has teamed up with Mid North Coast Community College in a step towards offering a welcoming support network to refugees who decide to explore new opportunities here through the Rural Jobs and Homes for Refugees program.
Securing accommodation during an affordable housing shortage is among the challenges.
Mid North Coast Community College board director of wellbeing and strategy Robbie Lloyd said housing was at a premium because of people leaving the city due to the COVID pandemic.
So the group is reaching out to elderly people, initially through church circles, who are interested in opening their homes to refugees as boarders.
Dr Lloyd said that would have the double benefit of rent coming in and bringing new energy into older people's lives to help them to remain independent.
The invitation is extended to anyone interested in welcoming a refugee into their home as part of the pilot project.
"For the refugees, it is an opportunity to get a beginning in this community where accommodation is scarce," Dr Lloyd said.
Mid North Coast Community College training manager Dennis Owen said the community college had a history of supporting new arrivals and refugees into the region.
"We would like to recognise Port Macquarie is a very inclusive region that is supportive of diversity," he said.
The aim is also to link employees with refugees seeking work in areas such as aged care and disability support.
"If we align real jobs with people who want to work, and put that together, we have a very successful model," Mr Owen said.
The state government-funded scheme More Jobs More Care has a role to play to grow the disability support workforce and help people get a start in the industry.
More Jobs More Care work experience liaison officer Karen Payne said the aim was to find providers for the purposes of work experience and give participants a taster of what it would be like as a disability support worker.
"Hopefully from that, they will gain employment directly through the provider or in a traineeship model," she said.
More Jobs More Care provides mentoring for the participants.
The Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group members will draw on their experience in settling asylum seekers as well as the successful Home Among the Gumtrees program giving refugee families a sample of country life before they decide whether to move permanently.
The group has settled 12 Tamil asylum seekers in the Port Macquarie-Hastings over the past three years.
Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group resettlement coordinator Janette Jones said those they had assisted were on safe haven enterprise visas, which was a temporary visa for five years.
Group members have provided assistance ranging from accommodation to support with transport and childcare.
"We have the experience and we know the pros and cons, and what people might need to assist them," Mrs Jones said.
Rural Jobs and Homes for Refugees also has links with Sydney.
Jesuit Refugee Services in Western Sydney and the Community Migrant Resource Centre in Parramatta are combining forces with the Justice and Peace Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney to build links between refugees and Mid North communities and businesses.
They are vetting the applicants.
Anyone interested in welcoming a refugee into their home through Rural Jobs and Homes for Refugees should contact Mid North Coast Community College on 6583 7288.
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