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For asylum seeker, Aziza, seeing her child, Arshad’s face light up walking through the gates of Lakemba Children’s Centre this week, meant everything to her.
"After I dropped him off, I was happy but I was also worried that he might cry," Aziza, whose family fled Burma said.
Arshad is one of nine children who began their very first day of care this week, as part of the City of Canterbury Bankstown’s national first initiative, to provide FREE child care to families seeking asylum.
Council has established the subsidised initiative, in collaboration with the Asylum Seekers Centre, Sydney Alliance, and Uniting through its integral Links to Early Learning program.
It offers support to families from enrolment through to the end of the 12-month pilot program.
It’s an opportunity Aziza believes will open doors for employment and study, and give her child the strongest start.
"I feel really happy because I have been given this opportunity to put my son in this place. We feel very fortunate, being in a difficult position financially," she said.
"It is a good thing for Arshad because he will learn English and make some friends. Later when he goes to school, it will be easier for him and he will not face as many difficulties. I also have a younger child that he will be able to teach."
Aziza said she would like to start looking at studying and getting a job.
"The first thing I want to do is learn more English and be confident, then I will look for a job," she said.
Mayor Khal Asfour said the landmark child care initiative was one of his proudest achievements as Mayor to date, and hoped it would become a permanent initiative.
"As a parent myself, I know how hard you can be on yourself to want to provide the very best for your child – including a good education," he said. "By investing in these children, we help set them up for a better future and provide them with the opportunity to learn and grow in the same way Australian-born children can."
Uniting’s Director of Mission, Communities and Social Impact, Doug Taylor, said the program was an important first step in helping these people rebuild their lives.
"We underestimate the challenges people seeking asylum face living and participating in the community," he said. "We hope we can support other councils and child care providers following Canterbury-Bankstown’s lead."
Canterbury-Bankstown has one of the largest populations of people seeking asylum in Sydney, with 78 children aged five or under whose parents are clients of the Asylum Seekers Centre.
29/01/2019 2:09 PM