In the lead up to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's 2017 World Refugee Day Telethon , we sat down with CEO and Founder Kon Karapanagiotidis to learn about what inspired him to create the program, and what the community of the West means to him.
The ASRC is a place of hope and welcome for refugees. Independent of Federal Government funding we provide
a one stop shop of live changing programs from helping people learn English, find their first job, put food on the
table for their family, legal help to save their life to a safe roof over head for the night. Over 16 years we have cared for and protected the safety and human rights of over 12,000 people seeking safety and sanctuary through a team of 1,300 volunteers and 100+ staff.
What inspired me to start the ASRC were my own experiences as a working class migrant kid with Greek parents who had sacrificed everything so my sister and I could live our dreams. From my refugee grandparents, to growing up with racism in a little country town to watching the struggles of my parents being exploited in factories and farms. I simply won the lottery of time and place and I will never forget that.
How has the ASRC developed over its 16 years in operation?
We have grown from a little 20sqm shopfront on Nicholson Street, Footscray set up in 8 weeks as a TAFE
class project with my students, providing food to people seeking asylum to Australia's largest organisation
helping people seeking asylum, now offering 46 services and 351,000 of free help and support each year.
How has the community in Melbourne’s West supported the ASRC?
The West has welcomed us with welcome arms, from local businesses, to local primary and schools
to the Maribyrnong Council. On a daily basis we have the community showing welcome and support,
from donations of vegies from people's backyard gardens, to drop off of food donations from local schools
to locals volunteer and the council helping raise awareness.
Why did you chose the West as home to the ASRC? And what do you love about the West?
We love the west, it is where we started 16 years and we were proud to return. The west is a living
breathing testament to the incredible contribution of migrants and refugees. From it's beautiful people,
down to earth attitude to it's heavenly food, culture and welcome.
Highpoint is supporting this year’s ASRC World Refugee Day Telethon. What does this mean for the ASRC?
Highpoint is my local shopping centre, a place I regularly go to with my mum. I am really proud to see Highpoint get behind us, you only need to spend an hour walking around Highpoint to see the breadth and diversity of cultures and people that make up our great city. I love watching how people are getting along so harmoniously, all enjoying a day out with their families and friends and enjoying food, some retail therapy and culture. It sends such an important message of welcome, of letting our newest Australians know they are one of us, that they are safe
and that they can call the West home. It's truly brilliant to see!
How can the community in the West support and/or become involved in World Refugee Day and the ASRC?
I always say we can all do our bit to welcome our newest Australians. Come volunteer at our beautiful centre in Footscray, there is a role for everyone. You can also support our call for a welcoming Australia and come to one of our free workshops on how you can help positively change attitudes to refugees. On World Refugee Day give us a call, talk to one of our amazing people and donate whatever you can spare to provide home and hope to refugees.