Finding Freedom: Family – Reflections on Refugee Week 2024

21 June 2024

Refugee Week 2024 ran from 16-23 June and the theme was Finding Freedom: Family.

Finding Freedom: Family – Reflections on Refugee Week 2024

This month we have had the pleasure and privilege of celebrating Refugee Week – an opportunity to listen to the voices of people with lived experience of forced displacement, and learn more about how we can offer support.

The theme this year is “Finding Freedom: Family”, which has provided an apt starting point for us to reflect on both the joy, grief, and complexity of family for people who have experienced forced displacement – and for us to remember that freedom is something achieved together.

We are particularly grateful for our JRS Australia family – our clients, volunteers, staff, and broader community – and at this time.

Refugee Week Events

In total, we engaged in 15 outreach events for Refugee Week, where we spoke to 4150 people across our school, parish and broader community. These included Table Talks, school presentations and community gatherings, where JRS Australia staff, and leaders with lived experience, shared their stories and insights.

We engaged with over 20 schools, including newly-engaged students, and teachers who have been supporting JRS Australia for many years. It is always so inspiring to experience the generosity, eagerness, and inclusivity of our community – who amongst dedicating themselves to learning more about refugees and people seeking asylum, have also provided record numbers of donations to our Foodbank during a difficult time.

Students ran Food Drives, donated stationary supplies, offered words of welcome, and discussed their commitment to a multicultural Australia. We were so impressed and grateful for the Refugee Week spirit shown across our community, and it is thanks to these events that we are able to keep our Foodbank running.

If you would like to engage with us at your school, parish or community event, we would love to join you! Please contact for school events, and for parish and community events.

Families in need during Refugee Week 2024

Over 120 families rely on our Foodbank services each week, and we have been running low on essential items as need has increased during the cost of living crisis. We are reminded of the power of our JRS family in these moments, where everyone steps up to fill gaps and support refugees and people seeking asylum in need of our help.

As we listen to leaders with lived experience bravely share their stories, to advocate for others in their position, we are empowered to work together in seeking the reunification with family that is so often unjustly refused to those seeking asylum in Australia.

A client of our Finding Safety Project, a grandmother who sought asylum in Australia after leaving Iraq, shared about the impact of not being able to enjoy freedom without knowing her granddaughter is safe.

“I feel like my body is here, but my soul is with my granddaughter back home. She has nobody but me. Once I can bring her here and hold her in my arms, only then will my soul feel complete again.”

Once I can bring her here and hold her in my arms, only then will my soul feel complete again.
JRS Australia Finding Safety Project client

Special notes from our Casework team

During this Refugee Week, the JRS Australia casework and emergency relief team stands in solidarity with the millions of refugees and forcefully displaced persons globally, especially the 700+ men, women and children seeking asylum that we serve and accompany each year through complex casework and emergency relief including food bank and material aid, referrals and more.

A Casework client reflects on “Finding Freedom: Family”

Jena* is a single mum with two young children. Jena drives UBER to earn a living and is a post-review client, which means, like many of our clients, Jena has limited options for securing permanency in Australia without ministerial intervention. For people in Jena’s situation, without the support of organisations like JRS Australia, there are often few support services available, and it can be difficult to access meaningful work. Jena relies on our casework and emergency relief services, including our Foodbank.

Jena is a strong woman, and a hard worker. She has been able to commit time to her work because JRS Australia engaged childcare services for her children. These needs-based services not only assist with securing practical outcomes like work, but also help ensure the wellbeing of her children and support early childhood development needs – breaking cycles of trauma and setting families up for a better future.

Speaking to Rose, our Casework and Emergency Relief Manager, Jena shared her story, and what “family” brings up or to her. 

I came to Australia by boat with so many wishes and hope for the future. I packed all my life in one backpack and came [to] seek [a] better future. [I am] trying so hard for education and learning English to be a strong woman in a new country. [I am] so happy to be in Australia, and raising my kids in a safe country with bright futures for them.

I am so happy to be in Australia and raising my kids in a safe country with bright futures for them.
Jena*, Casework client at JRS Australia

JRS Australia staff, volunteers and clients are like a big family – we’re here for each other during the difficult times, and the celebrations. Jena touched on this in her chat with Rose:

I had and still have so many problems which is getting so much bearable and easier with help of the case work team from JRS. I just wanted to say thank you to them for all the support – especially Rose who has helped me through hard situations that I was facing.”

The casework and emergency relief team remains committed to serving and accompanying people and families seeking asylum to find freedom in Australia.

And to the people we serve: we hope that what the JRS casework and emergency relief team continues making a difference for you, your families and your future as you seek protection and freedom.

We want to thank Sydney Catholic Early Childhood Services (SCECS) for partnering with JRS Australia to connect Jena and her family with this critical support.

*Jena’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Upcoming Event – Free Together: Stories of Strength, Unity and Family

Please join us on the evening of Friday the 19th of July, at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta for a heartfelt and inspiring event as we celebrate Refugee Week with this year’s theme “Finding Freedom: Family.”

This special event will feature a showcase of powerful presentations and performances by leaders with lived experience from the JRS Australia Refugee Leadership Program. It is an opportunity to come together as a community, to listen, learn, and support one another in the spirit of Refugee Week.


Click here to RSVP and for more information.