The City of Sydney Council became a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2005 and reaffirmed this commitment in 2014. Our initiatives and programs to support refugees and asylum seekers include providing this community group with free and low cost access to a range of Council facilities and services including swimming pools, gyms, and libraries. The City has supported the UNHCR Cities #WithRefugees campaign and is proud to support the ‘Racism. It Stops with Me‘ campaign.
Health and Wellbeing
A Swimming and Water Safety program specifically for asylum seekers is available at the City’s Cook + Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness Centre and Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre
The City’s Access Card program offers refugees and asylum seekers a concessional rate to swim at any of the City’s five swimming pools.
The City’s nine Library branches offer free annual Library membership under a special Temporary Membership, which allows a borrowing limit of 5 items for 3 weeks, and access to all Library facilities including free WiFi. The City’s Community and Recreation Centres offer free and low cost programs and activities for everyone. The Juanita Nielsen Outreach Program offers clients of Community Partner agencies, such as the Asylum Seekers Centre, the opportunity to attend the gym for up to 20 visits, over 6 months, free of charge.
Capacity building and employment pathways
The City’s libraries collaborate with Red Room Poetry and Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families to deliver The Fireflies Program, offered in the City’s libraries trains people of a refugee background to present multi-lingual early literacy sessions in the City’s Libraries, teaching stories, traditional songs and finger rhymes from their home countries in English and their home language in the rhyme time sessions.
This program supports employment pathways for people with refugee backgrounds. It trains refugees to present early literacy programs in organisations like public libraries and early childhood educational institutions. It helps to promote the library service to refugee communities, to reinforce the library as a refuge and haven to all, and to expose the library’s wider community to songs and stories from diverse cultures.
Grants and Sponsorship Program
The City’s Grants and Sponsorship Program, provides grants and in kind support to local NGOs for local projects and events to support and welcome refugees and asylum seekers, and celebrate their contributions to the community. Recently funded projects have included:
· Welcome2Sydney ambassador project
Welcome2Sydney is a volunteer-based program that aims to build a sense of belonging and welcome for refugees and asylum seekers settling in Sydney. This partnership project is run by Settlement Services International with a grant provided by the City. The Refugee Ambassadors run tours in and around Sydney’s key attractions, accompany refugees and asylum seeker to visit relevant services and participate in a range of events in the City of Sydney. Joining the Dots ‘Welcome Dinners’ project
This program brings new arrivals together with members of their local community, to share a meal and their personal stories, and make new friends. Successful Welcome Dinners have been held at a number of City community facilities.
· Breaking bread and barriers lunch program
Asylum Seekers Centre clients and local community groups from culturally diverse backgrounds prepare and cook hot meals as part of the centre’s daily lunch service. It is an opportunity for volunteers to interact with individuals and families seeking asylum, and it enables clients to give back to the community.
· Refugee Week Festival of Welcome
The Refugee Council of Australia holds a Festival of Welcome for Refugee Week each year. The City supports the annual launch event which showcases community support for people from refugee backgrounds involving speeches and music performances.
• Asylum Seekers Centre annual Refugee Week event
This annual event is delivered in partnership with the City. In 2018, the theme for the event was ‘The Need to Belong’. This event celebrates and acknowledges the positive impact that refugees have made, promotes the current work in the community, and discusses emerging changes.
• The Asylum Seekers Centre Employment Assistance Service Business Networks project
This project established a network of supportive employers in the City of Sydney willing to offer employment and training places to asylum seekers as part of the service’s free specialised employment matching services.
Celebration of diversity
The City values and celebrates its diversity by organising and sponsoring a number of major multicultural events and festivals each year, including the Living in Harmony Festival and the largest celebration of the Lunar New Year in the southern hemisphere, comprising lantern displays, night markets, food stalls, art exhibitions, dragon boat racing, and tours.
The City’s annual Living in Harmony Festival coincides with Harmony Day on 21 March each year – the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The month long program of free and low cost events aims to celebrate, promote and strengthen a sense of inclusiveness, cultural respect and belonging for everyone. The program is developed in partnership with many multicultural community organisations, including refugee and asylum seeker agencies, and is open to everyone. Find more information about how the City of Sydney welcomes refugees and asylum seekers here. This service directory provides useful information relevant to asylum seekers and refugees, including information on English language programs, legal advice and details of government services.