Camberwell Grammar School brings Australia closer to refugee solution

Victoria’s Camberwell Grammar School has marked a significant milestone in Australia’s response to the global refugee situation, with Headmaster Dr Paul Hicks encouraging the Federal Government to broaden the refugee community sponsorship program.

“Camberwell Grammar School, through their student-led Rotary Interact Club, is the first school in Australia to get behind expanding this neighbourhood-led solution to the global refugee crisis,” said Shankar Kasynathan, Refugee Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.

Community sponsorship is a model where ordinary members or groups in the community sponsor visas for refugees from around the world, who wish to begin the process of rebuilding their lives in Australia.

The move from Camberwell Grammar School aligns with the School’s longstanding active support of student involvement in social justice initiatives.

“It is pleasing to see the enthusiasm of my fellow students in pitching in to help give everyone the resources necessary for a safe and prosperous life. We hope that we can help to resettle and provide support for those in need,” said Ryan Campbell, President of the School’s Rotary Interact Club.

Camberwell Grammar School and its community have offered resettlement support to students who have escaped from persecution. This includes personal contributions from staff and former students.

Rob French, the School’s Deputy Headmaster, regularly contributes to educational costs of students from refugee backgrounds in Victoria. Amnesty International’s own national campaigner, Shankar Kasynathan graduated from the School in 2002.

“Years after graduating, I still carry the School motto into my work today with Amnesty International: ‘by our deeds may we be known,” said Shankar Kasynathan.

Amnesty International’s Victorian Refugee Network convenor, Farid Asghari, was given a scholarship by the School after arriving in Australia as an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan.

“We hope that other schools and universities around the country will add their voices to the call for a greater community sponsorship program.”

Dr Hicks, Headmaster at Camberwell Grammar School.

“We hope that other schools and universities around the country will add their voices to the call for a greater community sponsorship program,” said Dr Hicks, Headmaster at Camberwell Grammar School.

The community sponsorship model has worked successfully for almost 40 years in Canada, which has welcomed over 280,000 refugees through the program, in addition to its humanitarian intake.

“We can see from Camberwell Grammar School’s Rotary Interact Club example, that the kindness of neighbours can help people who have lost everything to start again. We hope people across Australia will see the success of this and say, ‘Let’s do our bit and help bring these vulnerable people to safety’,” said Shankar Kasynathan.  

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