It’s difficult to imagine the impact Phillip Island must make on refugees from the Horn of Africa living in high-rise public housing in inner-city Melbourne, but the Melbourne Anglican Benevolent Society, part of the Melbourne Anglican Foundation, made it happen for about 50 people recently through the Estates Ministry at St Jude’s Carlton.

The Revd Chris Mitchell, Estates Minister at St Jude’s, says the parish has been working with people in the Carlton estate since it was built in the 1960s and now conducts a number of programs there, including English tutoring, a homework club, a twice-weekly sewing group, community workshop and a Sunday community lunch for the poor, aged and lonely.

Donations to the ministry are channelled through the Benevolent Society.

The Phillip Island adventure, which the Foundation funded, was the latest holiday camp for high-rise residents organised by St Jude’s. The parish runs an annual camp for families at Merricks, on the Mornington Peninsula, and usually draws about 100 people. The Phillip Island camp was enjoyed by people aged from one to 66.
“They don’t really know how to work our culture,” Mr Mitchell said. “For them to organise a holiday out of the city, they wouldn’t know how to do it.”

Volunteer Andrew said St Jude’s arranged leaders – many of them university students like himself – to watch over the children as their mothers conversed or even enjoyed a sauna. Andrew said the ministry aimed to have a ratio of at least one adult per eight children, especially since the camps are held near water and many Africans from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia are not used to that environment.

“They are always very thankful,” he said.

Mr Mitchell said about 2000 people live in the Carlton estates, including people from Iraq and Lebanon and Australians of European background, and the programs enabled the ministry to build relationships with residents.

“An Eritrean woman said: ‘Whenever we’re stuck, it’s the Christians who help us.’… We get known as people who care.”