Overview of the People We Assist - Pre-course information

This information session provides an overview of the People We Assist. Please take the time to go through all of the content before you attend the training session, as this helps to provide you with much of the background information that enables us to keep the face-to-face training sessions as brief as possible. 

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Fact Sheets



What causes addiction?


Age and Social Isolation


Refugees  and Asylum Seekers

What is an Asylum seeker?

Fact: Someone seeking protection because they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. An asylum seeker could also be someone who is fleeing other serious human rights violations, including torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Not every asylum seeker will be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.


What is a Refugee?

Fact: A person who has fled persecution, has sought protection and has been granted refugee status. A refugee may be residing in a refugee camp waiting for an opportunity to return to their home country, waiting for resettlement in another country, or may have been resettled in another country such as Australia.


What is a Migrant?

Fact: A migrant is a person who chooses to leave their country, generally to seek work, undertake study or be reunited with family. They can return home at any time if things don't work out.

Are people who seek asylum and come to Australia by boat illegal?

Fact: No. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. Human rights are universal. They are basic freedoms and protections that everyone is entitled to.

It is not illegal for people to flee persecution in their homeland or to cross borders without documents or passports in order to seek asylum. It is not a crime under Australian law to arrive here by boat without a valid visa and ask for protection.

Do all asylum seekers come to Australia by boat?

Fact: No.

Many people coming to Australia seeking asylum arrive by plane with a valid visa, and then claim asylum once they are here.

The number of asylum seekers who arrived by plane in the financial year 2012-13 was 8,308, compared to 18,119 applications from people who arrived by boat. (Department of Immigration).

Unlike people who arrive by boat in Australia, people who arrive by plane and then seek asylum are not subject to mandatory detention.

Does Australia have more asylum seekers than other developed countries?

Fact: No.

The majority of asylum claims in developed countries are received in Europe and the USA.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates the developed countries which received the most new asylum claims onshore were Germany (109,600), the USA (88,400), and France (60,100). In 2013, Australia received 24,300 applications for asylum.

According to UNHCR figures at the end of 2013, more than 51 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution.

On top of that, UNHCR estimated that at least 10 million people were stateless in 2013, and that only about one per cent of the world's refugees were likely to be resettled in any given year.

Who hosts the majority of the world’s refugees?

Fact: Developing countries.

The majority of asylum seekers and refugees live close to their home country, with developing countries hosting the greatest number of asylum seekers and refugees.

According to UNHCR the countries hosting the most refugees at end of 2013 were:

  • Pakistan (1.6 million)
  • Iran (857,400)
  • Lebanon (856,500)
  • Jordan (641,900)
  • Turkey (609,900)
  • Kenya (534,900)
  • Chad (434,500)
  • Ethiopia (433,900)
  • China (301,000)
  • USA (263,600)

UNHCR also reports that the majority of refugees and asylum seekers - particularly people fleeing conflict - prefer to stay close to home. In 2013, developing countries hosted over 86% of the world's refugees, compared to 70% ten years ago.

Is there a queue for people coming to Australia seeking asylum?

Fact: No.

Some people believe that asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat are 'queue jumpers,' and are taking the place of people who have registered with UNHCR or those who are waiting in refugee camps.

The UN resettlement system does not operate by using a queue. A queue implies that resettlement is an orderly process and by waiting for a period of time a person will reach the front of the queue. The UN resettlement system prioritises asylum seekers for resettlement according to considered needs, rather than waiting time.

Is everyone who comes to Australia seeking asylum allowed to stay?

Fact: No.

Under international law, before anyone is granted refugee status, whether in Australia or another country, they must prove they have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion suffering serious human rights violations, including torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

Do asylum seekers living in Australia get more benefits that than Australians in need?

Fact: No.

They receive fewer benefits.

The Australian Government provides basic income support to eligible asylum seekers. Those eligible for support receive a maximum of 89 per cent of the Centrelink unemployment benefit.

The Government also provides limited assistance to this group to meet their basic needs, such as assisting people to access health and social services.

Not every asylum seeker in the community is eligible for support under these programs. Those who are not eligible do not receive any Government financial assistance or support whatsoever.

Many asylum seekers in the community on Bridging Visas do not have the right to work.

If an asylum seeker is granted refugee status they are then entitled to most of the same benefits as a resident.

Source: http://www.redcross.org.au/asylum-seekers-refugees-facts.aspx

True or False

  • You should refer people we assist who have health or addiction issues for professional services
  • Suicide is more common in certain groups, including males, indigenous Australians, unemployed people, prisoners, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex people
  • Asylum seekers and some temporary visa holders are excluded from accessing some Centrelink Payments


What is Poverty?

There is no single ‘correct’ definition of poverty. The term poverty can refer to:

  • The many disadvantaged people living in our communities
  • Not having enough money to take care of basic human needs
  • Someone who has a low income combined with a low standard of living

Description: Image result for povertyThe 2016 ACOSS Poverty in Australia report reveals that poverty in Australia is growing with an estimated 2.9 million people or 13.3% of all people living below the poverty line. The report found that 731,300 (17.4%) of all children were living in poverty in Australia (ACOSS 2016).


  • Poverty Line = the lowest income level at which it is possible to maintain an adequate standard of living (Macquarie Dictionary 2016).
  • The internationally accepted poverty line is defined as 50% of median household income and adjusts for housing costs.


(source ACOSS 2016)

Research now adopts the view that, in addition to low income, poverty also refers to a household’s resources being seriously below the average in society. While income is a central part of identifying poverty, there are many other dimensions to poverty.

Non-monetary indicators of poverty could include the following:

  • Basic lifestyle deficiency – inability to afford food and clothing, an annual holiday, replace worn-out furniture or ability to pay rent or utilities on time
  • Secondary lifestyle deficiency – inability to afford domestic appliances, such as a washing machine, fridge or microwave. Inability to afford internet access or mobile phone credit
  • Lack of housing resources – for example not having a bath, shower or indoor toilet. Or, not having hot running water
  • Housing deterioration problems – leaking roof, mould, damp or lack of insulation and air-conditioning
  • Environmental difficulties – inadequate space and light, noise and air pollution, vandalism and security issues

But, there are other ways to think about poverty that goes beyond economic disadvantage:

  • A limitation of choices and opportunities owing to a lack of resources

The experiences of people in poverty are often described in terms of shame and the erosion of human dignity. People in poverty are often treated as different by politicians, professionals, the media and the rest of us.

(source SBS Struggle Street 2016)

A recent report by The Australian Council of Social Services echoes this view: “We need to shift the mindset that poverty is a reflection of the individual, and instead view eradicating poverty as a shared responsibility.”

The Vincentian’s vision involves “affirming the dignity of each human being as created in God’s image, and Jesus’ particular identification with those who are excluded by society” (The Rule 7.2).



Select from the list below all the forms of poverty there could be.

  • financial
  • educational
  • spiritual
  • physical
  • support systems/relationships
  • role models

Domestic Violence


Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CALD)


Australia is a diverse country. ABS data shows that in 2015, over 28 percent (6.7 million) of Australia’s residential population was born overseas (ABS 2015).

Australia is also home to refugees who may have had a challenging or traumatic experience with migration. In 2015–2016, the Australian Government granted 17,555 refugee and humanitarian visas (Dept. of Immigration 2015).

Therefore, when interacting with people seeking assistance, it is important to be sensitive to cultural differences as they may come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

It can also be challenging to think about our own conscious, subconscious or unconscious biases of people from a different culture, nationality or religion. Examining our own beliefs about different cultures will help to ensure that these beliefs do not interfere with the assistance Vincentians provide.

Although it is impossible to learn everything about every cultural group you may encounter, it is useful to do some research on the cultural groups your Conference assists.

“The Society serves those in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions” (The Rule 1.4).


  • Avoid stereotypes and value judgements based on cultural difference
  • Where possible, use an accredited interpreter if the person we assist has difficulty speaking or understanding English

If unable to use an interpreter:

  • do not assume the person has English language proficiency
  • ask open-ended questions to make sure the person understands what you are saying
  • summarise and repeat back information given
  • speak clearly, slowly and do not raise your voice
  • and use simple language —­ avoid jargon, abbreviations and colloquialisms
  • Be aware of cultural differences in verbal and non-verbal communication styles
  • Ensure that your non-verbal communication matches what you are saying
  • Learn a few words in the language of the main CALD community served by your Conference
  • Do not mimic speech patterns, accents or ways of speaking

(ACOSS 2016)

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (ASTI)


  • In 2014–2015 the estimated number of Indigenous Australians was 686,000 or 3% of the total Australian population (ABS 2015). We know that the Society assists a much higher proportion of ATSI people than this. In some Conferences, 40% of people we assist come from ATSI background.
  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over one-third (33.5%) of Indigenous Australians people aged 15 years and over felt that they had been treated unfairly, at least once, in the previous twelve months, because they were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin (ABS 2016).
  • Research shows that many assistance providers show a lack of understanding of culture, economic and social factors and life circumstances of Aboriginal families.
  • It is important to recognise that the Indigenous community is diverse and there will be variations in appropriate assistance. For example, assistance given in one setting may not be transferable to another setting, Conference or Council. However, it may be useful to do some research on the local needs and circumstances of your own Indigenous community.

“Vincentians do not judge those they serve, rather they seek to understand them as they would a brother or sister.” The Rule 1.9


  1. Gain basic knowledge about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and language groups in your area, including history, languages, dominant family groups and original custodians.
  2. Be aware and respectful of the importance of extended family and kinship structures when working with ATSI people.
  3. Respect, acknowledge, actively listen and respond to the needs of ATSI people in a culturally appropriate manner.
  4. Think about the language you use (verbal, non-verbal and written) when communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Use plain English.
  5. Do not mimic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speech patterns or attempt to speak Aboriginal English.
  6. Respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s use of silence. Do not mistake it for misunderstanding.

(ACOSS 2016)

True or False

  • Mental Health issues affects 1 in 5 Australian adults
  • Key groups of people affected by homelessness include Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, young people 12-18, families with children, asylum seekers, people affected by mental illness

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI)


Alcohol and Drugs

Cultural Diversity


Almost one in five Australians live with a disability (ABS 2015).

Disability is part of human diversity and the likelihood of living with disability increases with age.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 defines the following disabilities:

  • Physical - affects a person's mobility or dexterity
  • Intellectual - affects a person's abilities to learn
  • Mental Illness - affects a person's thinking processes
  • Sensory - affects a person's ability to hear or see
  • Neurological – affects the person’s brain and central nervous system
  • Learning disability
  • Physical disfigurement or
  • Immunological -the presence of organisms causing disease in the body

Many people with a disability live below the poverty line (ACOSS 2013-2014).



  1. Hold interviews in a quiet, private place free from distractions and interruptions.
  2. Tell the person to ask you if they do not understand something.
  3. Use short, simple sentences and avoid abstract concepts and jargon.
  4. If the person has a support person, talk directly to the person, not the support.
  5. Where possible, allow additional time for the visitation.
  6. If you find the person’s speech difficult to understand, find out how the person conveys ‘yes’ and ‘no’, for example by using eyes, tongue, or sign language.
  7. Ask the person seeking assistance if you have heard or understood them correctly by respectfully repeating back what they have said.

Violence Against Women

True or False

  • You should make it condition of assistance that people we refer for help attend the referral
  • The Translator Information Service 131450 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and there is no need to pre-book the service
  • People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) experience a greater degree of disadvantage and poverty than those born in Australia
  • People with a disability cannot make decisions for themselves
  • A woman in Australia is more likely to be killed in her own home by her male partner than any where else in the world

Powerpoint Presentation