5 minutes with…Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM

Kon started the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), out of a tiny shop front on Nicholson Street in 2001. Following an expansion into the city, the largest centre of its kind in Australia has returned to Nicholson Street to further expand the range of services it offers to asylum seekers.

Why did you open the centre?
I was inspired by the struggles of my parents and my own experiences of racism growing up. I was teaching at TAFE and opened the centre with my students with a few hundred dollars and a few boxes of food. Today we have more than 950 volunteers and around 40 paid staff providing services to 1350 asylum seekers each year. More than 95% of our funding comes solely from the community and philanthropy.

What does the centre provide?
The centre delivers crucial services and support to asylum seekers, including: food, material aid and accommodation; legal, health and advocacy services; casework; employment and training support.

How can our readers get involved in the centre?
By volunteering or donating money, food or material aid. They can also use one of our social enterprises – we have catering and cleaning businesses and an employment service.

What do you like about Footscray?
It’s thriving, magical, brilliant multiculturalism. I love its history, diversity, resilience, sincerity, beauty and warmth.

What is your hope for the future of ASRC?
My hope is that one day it will close its doors because people seeking asylum in our country will get a fair go, a right to work, a safety net and a welcome.

 

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