UN lauds refugee program

UNHCR Antonio Guterres and Fairfield High principal Bob Mulas

Fairfield High School's work with refugees has been branded "absolutely fantastic" by a man who knows what he is talking about.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres recently visited the school to see firsthand the school's programs for its refugee students, their parents and the local community.

"The work you are doing is absolutely fantastic," he said.

"It is extremely important to see the civil society coming together - different organisations, community organisations, local authorities ... together with the school to create conditions for people to feel at home.

"I really want to express my very deep admiration for the work you do."

Refugee students make up half the Sydney school's population.

In 2009 the school began a Breakfast Program and an information support group for parents of the Intensive English Centre called the Parent Cafe.

The cafe introduces parents to other support agencies such as Centrelink, Transport NSW, Fairfield Council, TAFE, Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre and the Fairfield Youth Workers Network.

Principal Robert Mulas said the cafe helped parents better understand their local area and services available to them.

AUDIO: Listen to Mr Mulas discuss the development of parent services at Fairfield High School.

Link to MP3 audio file: http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/detresources/bob_RTcARchAix.mp3

Community project officer with Fairfield City Council Peter Hope said the Parent Cafe had opened up the doors.

"I think it's been a great success because Bob's [Mr Mulas] put a lot of faith in the community agencies that are here to work with young people and their families," Mr Hope said.

Auburn Diversity Services youth services manager Michael McGill, himself a refugee who arrived from Liberia to Australia in 2005, said the Parent Cafe created an avenue where parents could support their children.

He said refugees arrived with a lot of issues, but Australia was on the right track to working through these.

"I give you a big tick," Mr McGill said.

Mr Mulas, along with Year 11 student Ameer Saeed and his brother Daniel, were invited by the Federal Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen to present the Parent Cafe program as a "best practice at supporting refugee parents and students" at the United Nations in Geneva last December.

"Our stay in Geneva allowed us to see the operations of the UN General Assembly where countries were pledging their financial contributions and support for refugees across the globe," Mr Mulas said.

"The trip provided us with the experience to meet a number of people who work in the international division of immigration, and importantly, the Ambassador and his team. It was definitely a career highlight for me."

Photo: UNHCR Antonio Guterres (left) and Fairfield High principal Bob Mulas at the Parent Cafe. Photo by David Lefcovitch.

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