Wodonga Council

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Grant has far-reaching impact for refugees

16 Jul, 2021

Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Group will use its Community Impact Grant to repair bikes to help give new arrivals a way to establish themselves in the community.

Donated bikes, helmets, bike locks and repair kits are just part of the group's efforts for enabling refugees to be more mobile and participate in study, work and other activities.

Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee group president Dr Penny Vine said while giving bikes to new arrivals seemed a "no brainer", it was not as easy as it sounded.

"When new arrivals were settling in, they have no car and their accommodation is often far from shops and school or TAFE," she said.

"But there is a wide network of bike tracks that reach the length and breadth of the two cities and recycling second-hand bikes seemed an ideal solution. Bicycles would offer mobility and an opportunity to learn the road rules and other aspects of life in Australia.

"But many people did not know how to ride and learning on bikes with gears along roads with cars and pedestrians was a big challenge for some of them. Others, especially the younger ones, leapt on and flew through the learning. So for them, the bikes did give them the mobility we had imagined."

The real issue came when the bikes would become "broken".

"Broken could mean a flat tyre or it could mean that the gears had been crunched and the chain fractured," she said.

"Broken could mean borrowed by a friend who mistreated it and then did not return it. We did not follow up about maintenance or security, let alone check whether it was a useful gift."

So the group now runs workshops and fixes the broken bikes to ensure new arrivals continue to have access to work and school.

"I think the Community Impact Grant is an amazingly flexible grant," she said.

"It is reacting to the impact of the new arrivals and responsive to the needs of the community."

Newly arrived refugee Mukonyezi Banoba said the bikes program was important for him.

"It's good for transport, like yesterday I ride the bike to go to school and that helped me," he said.

"Actually this bike is changing my life. Before I got this bike I have been thinking how I am going to walk or something like that. But when I got this bike it started to help me to go anywhere."