Making fresh STARTTS

Australia Post grant to connect isolated refugees

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CONNECTIONS: A new program aims to connect socially isolated refugees with their communities, while also providing them with the opportunity to get some exercise. Photo: STARTTS

CONNECTIONS: A new program aims to connect socially isolated refugees with their communities, while also providing them with the opportunity to get some exercise. Photo: STARTTS

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A NSW government service is taking steps to ensure senior refugees feel more connected.

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CONNECTING with the community can be a challenge for senior refugees, but a new initiative will help set them on the right path.

The NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) has received a $9,460 Australia Post Community Grant.

The grant will fund the new Walk & Talk program, which aims to connect socially isolated members of the refugee community through monthly walking activities.

The project aims to reduce the impact of mental health issues and social isolation by helping participants to socialise and create new connections.

STARTTS grant and tender officer Arran Saunders said the charity worked with around 4000 clients from refugee backgrounds each year. Of these clients, roughly 700 a year are elderly, with many of them residing in Western Sydney.

"We work with people from a host of cultural groups - well over 100 cultures," he said.

Mr Saunders said refugees came from two groups - cultural groups which had been in Australia for some time and emerging cultural groups.

Many elderly refugees have limited English skills and face other barriers to social integration such as the deaths of spouses and peers, lack of transport and difficulties accessing aged care services.

"Many older refugees struggle with relationships with their grandchildren. Their grandchildren pick up English very quickly and if the grandparents don't speak English, they feel alienated from them."

He said COVID had exacerbated the problem, with the closure of social outlets such as RSL clubs and cultural social groups.

"Many older people live with their families and families can be over protective at times. They might be restricting the movements of older family members for fear of their safety."

He said the program aimed to identify these isolated members of the community, encouraging them to enjoy light exercise while connecting with like minded people.

"The idea is to run 10 facilitated walks over the course of the year for about 20-25 participants per walk."

Responses from the community will determine the locations and scheduling of walks. Locations across the Fairfield, Liverpool, Cumberland and Blacktown areas are likely to host at least one walk.

Mr Saunders said organisers hoped the program would encourage participants to form social walking groups which would continue independently of the program.

"It's about making sure older people remain visible in the community, have opportunities they can access and are recognised in their communities."

"Sometimes it just takes something small like this to get that to happen."

STARTTS is one of 76 community organisations across the country to receive a 2021 Australia Post Community Grant of up to $10,000.

For more information on the Walk & Talk program call (02) 9646-6700. For more information on 2021 Australia Post grant recipients click here.

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