DARA offering Relief where it's needed

In July this year Bishop Bill advised the establishment of a new agency, called the Development and Relief Agency (DARA).

DARA ‘s purpose is to support those in our community who suffer distress, alienation and helplessness resulting from social disadvantage, in its various forms.

Initially DARA has responsibility for two key outreach services:

  • DARA’s Van (formerly Community Care Van);and
  • Refugee Hub (formerly Penola House and Refugee Service.) 

Through these services DARA seeks to provide:

  • Practical assistance to respond to immediate daily needs
  • An opportunity for socialisation to reduce the effects of isolation and loneliness
  • A caring, supportive and respectful environment to help restore and build self worth
  • Access to focussed educational and life skills programs to improve capacity to deal with day to day issues as well as self development.

DARA’s Van

DARA’s Van in its previous format has been supporting those who are homeless or in difficult circumstances each Saturday afternoon at Islington Park. This service is well attended and is well known amongst the community who seeks its services.

In its expanded role DARA’s Van will extend this provision of food to those in need in other areas of the region including Anna Bay, Raymond Terrace and Maitland with more services to be introduced.

Two important developments with DARA’s Van has been the sponsoring of Orange Sky Australia with its dedicated Laundry Van into the region and the appointment of a permanent Van Co-ordinator, Mr Baden Ellis, who many will know from his work with the youth of the Diocese and the pastoral placement program. Baden has commenced in this new role to manage the logistics of the Van and food supply along with the co-ordination of the Volunteer teams and site supervision.

DARA’s Van provides a volunteering opportunity for those who feel they have some time they could allocate to assist in this vital work. Vacancies still exist in the Raymond Terrace and Maitland services.

The mobility of both DARA’s and Orange Sky’s Vans enable the services to reach areas not served by fixed existing services. It also allowsthe provision of services out of normal business hours.

Mr Barry Urwin, Chief Officer of DARA  commented: “ I have been impressed by the wonderful reaction to the expansion of these services and the encouragement and response from businesses, Councils, Local Police Commands and the community, generally, many of whom have been keen to offer their time to volunteer. The clients are now starting to see the services on site regularly and are beginning to attend in increasing numbers.”


Refugee Hub

Refugee Hub continues to support the many and varied needs of newly arrived families as they attempt to resettle in a new country and culture.

Our dedicated staff and volunteers have for many years offered a place of welcome and assistance. They have been able to resolve challenges confronting the clients from small issues to complex matters.

One of the major obstacles to assimilation is the barrier of language. This has a major implication for seeking employment and for dealing with the various challenges that occur as a normal part of daily life.

Refugee Hub volunteer tutors have for many years run classes that assist with conversational English to support students of the AMEP / SEE programs  - the formal classes provided as a part of resettlement packages.

A review of the existing programs has been undertaken to ensure it is meeting the identified needs of the refugee and newly arrived community. From this review a number of new programs are being introduced and planned for the future. A language program more focussed to the needs of those seeking employment is a priority.

An opportunity exists for teachers with ESL qualifications to assist with this more specialised program.

The need for advocacy and case work continues and keeps staff very busy.

For more information regarding opportunities to assist with DARA's Van or the Refugee Hub, please visit DARA's website, or contact DARA by phone at (02) 4979 1142

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Barry Urwin Image
Barry Urwin

Barry is the Manager of Business and Community Engagement for the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese.