Help the men on manus island
Who is Act for Peace and who are we partnering with on Manus Island?
Act for Peace is the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, working to promote safety, justice and dignity in communities threatened by conflict and disaster.
Act for Peace is partnering with the Manus Provincial Council of Churches (MPCC) and met with the Council in January 2018 to explore their willingness and capacity to do more to support the refugee men on Manus Island.
Act for Peace will support and empower the MPCC to provide a more supportive presence to the refugee and asylum seeker men. Act for Peace will support the MPCC to develop and administer the funds raised to implement the programs and activities they seek to provide in consultation with the men.
Act for Peace are aware there are a number of other organisations with expertise and wide networks that are providing phone counselling, medical care, emergency relief goods and legal support. We aim to support and encourage this work, rather than replicate it.
To find out more about Act for Peace, visit our Why We Are Here and How We Work pages.
How is Act for Peace working with other agencies on the ground?
Manus Island has very limited support services on the island. The MPCC have a direct link to the Manus Provincial Government and will work collaboratively with local programs and agencies. The program will strive for positive relationships with the local security and support service engaged to support the men in their accommodation.
Collaboration with the Australian refugee sector is already strong and regular consultation will ensure the program is not replicating the support that is already provided. Rather Act for Peace will seek to enhance and maximise the support opportunities collectively.
Where will the money go?
The training and support services offered will enable the men to access online courses in hospitality, IT and other services, providing them with an accredited certificate to help them resettle with experience. A handful of men have already benefited from the training. Men like Sashi* who was able to get the training and certification he needed in hospitality to re-engage his skills after five years of not working. Despite losing five years of his life in detention, Sashi’s resilience is nothing short of inspiring. With the skills he has learnt he now wants to mentor other refugees, so they too can better prepare for their own future.
By creating opportunities for the refugee and asylum seeker men and local Manusians to come together through community-based activities, the program will help to foster community harmony.
How have we consulted both the men and Manus Island community about the program?
A scoping visit was conducted in January 2018 to speak to a number of refugee and asylum seekers about what kind of support they are interested in if a program was developed. Access to the transit centre was not permitted during the site visit. Through local contacts and a program consultant who has spent significant time on the Island, refugee men were invited to consult with the site visit team to discuss the likely reaction of a program implemented by the Churches and what ideas might be important when determining the scope of support for the men.
In most instances, feedback involved the desire for basic support services for men who are unwell, including counselling and hospitality support (respite stay from the accommodation centres) and more formal training such as online courses, apprenticeships or other such manual work.
It was made clear that any program established would not be able to meet all of these needs, or have the capacity to support all 500 men comprehensively and would be entirely a voluntary ‘opt in’ program.
What is the scope of the training?
Training opportunities have been identified for possible activities by the men themselves and sector colleagues who have been visiting regularly. The aim of the proposed training arm of the program is to provide greater support and collaboration with Manus businesses and the existing Manus training facility. However, the resources on Manus Island are very limited so a number of opportunities would be identified with online learning or small business development. We are conscious of the sensitivities of the poverty level of local residents and will be aiming to provide opportunities for both refugee men and locals to learn and work together.
Providing specific data on the number of men and local residents we may train is difficult to identify upfront as much of the early roll out of the program will be identifying those who are willing and able to participate, combined with developing the opportunities in a challenging environments.
When are we planning on rolling out this program?
We hope to start the program in the next couple of months as soon as we have reached our fundraising target. It is highly unlikely that further settlement to the US will occur swiftly over the next year. Even if all the places are filled there are not enough places for all the men. Until another re-settlement option is identified some men will be left on Manus for an undetermined timeframe.
What happens if we don’t raise all the funds?
Local partners on Manus Island are waiting to deliver training and practical support to the men but they lack the resources to get started. To ensure this vital care gets to the men, we need to raise $64,000 by 19 September. In the unfortunate event of us not raising the total amount needed to fund the program, all money raised will be distributed to help support Act for Peace’s work in communities around the world affected by conflict and disaster.