St Vincent de Paul

On their arrival few assisted migrants needed immediate material aid such as toilet paper, toothpaste, soap.  They were able to buy these items as needed. For the East Timorese arrivals in 1975 though it was different. They were mainly women and children who had been quickly evacuated to Darwin when the conflict in Timor began.

They rarely had more than the clothes they wore.  The situation was the same for the refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam who came soon after, many from refugee camps. The community organisations responded quickly to their plight. They gave clothes and footwear suitable for the seasons the refugees found themselves in, as well as other basic material aid. It took government a little longer to act but in 1977, once they recognised the cost being borne by the community, the government gave grants of $30 for each refugee to assist with clothing and toiletries.

These grants were provided through three organisations, St Vincent DePaul, (which had rooms at the hostel), the Salvation Army and the Baptist Union of Victoria, all of whom still contributed generously from their own resources. By 1983 the grants had been increased to $65 per person. The Anglican and Seventh Day Adventist churches also provided informal material aid support.

In 1979 the federal government established the Committee for Allocation of Loan Funds to Refugees in Centres (CALFRIC) and funded the loan scheme to cover the bond and rent-in-advance for people leaving the hostel to move into private accommodation. This scheme was administered at Enterprise by the Baptist Union of Victoria, St Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army and the Indo-China Refugee Association. The loans, between $300 and $600 were repaid at the rate of $25 a fortnight and very few people defaulted.

The community organisations continued to respond willingly, often providing volunteer drivers and transport to shift the families from Enterprise into their new homes. They also helped by supplying furniture, bedding, kitchen utensils, towels and the varied items necessary to make the new accommodation as comfortable as possible.



"We were told we could have one skirt and one pair of pants. Vietnamese women don’t wear skirts.  I asked for two pairs of pants but was told I had to have a skirt.  I told all the women to take the skirts and we would put them back in the collection bins at a later date" - An Nguyen, Vietnam

"Some things we could take as much as we liked but we didn’t take a lot – just what we needed" - Rakha Leas, Cambodia

"Red Cross tracing helped women desperate to find their families. Letters to East Timor were written in English, so photos were taken of the babies, so that families would know that babies had been born safely. There was much joy when replies arrived." - Suzanne Cooper, welfare worker

"The generosity of the community response was very significant." - Sr Kath Ragg

"When it was time to leave Sr May helped us find a furnished home which was owned by the church. We paid very low rent." - Lucy Cheng, Vietnam refugee

"There were mothers who were devastated when provided with white sheets for their baby’s cot. They thought that they were being provided with shrouds." - Anonymous, English resident


Related Documents

  1. Loan Application - English
  2. Loan Application - Chinese
  3. Loan Application - Vietnamese
  4. Loan Application - Khmer


Photo Gallery

Providing Basic Necessities
Top Left: St Vincent de Paul provided furniture when families moved out of Enterprise; 
Top Right: All the church and welfare groups worked together.
Bottom: These six women were among the 27 pregnant women who arrived from East Timor in 1975.  Anglican Church women knitted layettes and gave them all bassinets;

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