About us

Bridge for Asylum Seekers (Bridge) is a not-for-profit seeking to prevent destitution and homelessness among asylum seekers living in greater Sydney and elsewhere in NSW.
Bridge is managed by a pro bono management committee which raises and distributes the funds required to support asylum seekers in need, our clients. On average, 98% of funds raised go directly to Bridge’s clients.
The financial support provided by Bridge takes the form of a living allowance and, where homelessness is a threat (which it is for 80% of clients), we also provide a rental allowance.
Currently, the allowances (per person per week) are:
$80 = Rental Allowance
$75 = Living Allowance, to cover essentials like food, clothing, pharmaceuticals, transport cards and phone costs with the latter two allowing people to remain in contact with Department of Home Affairs (DoHA), legal representatives and caseworkers.
Since 2003 (Bridge’s inception) to end financial year 2018-19, Bridge has assisted 2041 asylum seekers. In 2018-19, Bridge supported 189 asylum seekers of whom 45 were children. In recent years, an average of 88 people a month (with approximately 25% being children under the age of 18 years old) have been supported with living allowances. Most of these clients have also needed rental support to prevent homelessness.
Bridge operates autonomously while auspiced by Uniting, the social justice and community services arm of the Uniting Church in Australia. Being auspiced by Uniting offers Bridge many benefits including Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status and endorsement as a Tax Concession Charity (TCC), financial oversight and a venue for committee meetings.

About those supported

All of our clients, i.e. those supported by Bridge, are people who have fled their home countries, applied for protection in Australia and are awaiting a decision on their application. Before receiving our support, their financial situation will have been reviewed to show insufficient funds to survive. All Bridge’s clients will also have been assessed by our legal representatives as having asylum claims meeting UN criteria.
With people from so many countries being subjected to persecution, human rights abuses and torture, it is not surprising that our clients come from most parts of the world. In one financial year, our clients came from 34 countries in Central and South America, northern and sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Oceania, and South, South East and East Asia

Management committee members

Janet Castle (Chair, community refugee advocate, grant application writer)
Andrew Clark (Treasurer)
Felicia Tesoriero (Secretary)
Wenny Theresia (Legal Officer)
Janice Thompson (community refugee advocate, grant application writer)
Caroline Mackie (community refugee advocate)
Bridge’s management committee has always been pro bono.

Bridge: our foundation story

In the early 2000s, Virginia Walker started to correspond with asylum seekers in detention centres in Western Australia and South Australia after enquiring of and being given names by Julian Burnside in Victoria. In 2002, she started to visit many of these asylum seekers who had been transferred to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC) in Sydney.
One of those Virginia met in VIDC was a Shia Kuwaiti man, let’s call him SK. Some time after meeting Virginia, SK was transferred by Immigration to Western Australia. However, SK’s lawyer was in Sydney and so he was sent back to Sydney for an interview with the lawyer. Immigration paid for SK’s return plane fare but didn’t give him any money for expenses. He was penniless and had no place to stay. Luckily, he had Virginia’s phone number and, once she knew his plight, Virginia invited SK to stay with her. During this time, she supported SK financially as every day he had to report into the Parramatta Immigration Office (on weekends at the Parramatta police station near the Immigration Office).
It was while supporting SK that Virginia was again visiting VIDC and discovered that a man she had just met would be released the next day and he had no place to stay, no money, no friends, no work rights, no Centrelink support. With her second bedroom already occupied, she needed to find another place for him. She did manage to find cheap daily accommodation for which she paid but the man had to be out of the room by the early morning and could not return until late afternoon. This was both expensive and unsuitable.
These experiences, together with others, made Virginia determined to do something. She gathered together a few friends as well as some of the other VIDC visitors to determine if a foundation could be started to provide funds for asylum seekers in the same situation as her two friends. Frances Milne, a VIDC visitor, was heavily involved in the Uniting Church and, acting upon her suggestion and subsequent representation, Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation (BASF and now Bridge) became an autonomous committee under the auspices of Uniting, providing the new foundation with the advantages of charity status as well as the imprimatur of the church.
Virginia and Frances remained key committee members of Bridge until retiring in July 2017. Virginia did all banking and receipting, as well as keeping in touch with as many people, clients and donors, as possible while also visiting VIDC on a weekly basis. Frances was the link to Uniting along with a key partner organisation, Balmain for Refugees, which focused on asylum procedural and legal support.
In 2006, Virginia was awarded a Human Rights Community Individual Award for the work she undertook on behalf of Bridge and in 2014 was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (AM) for her human rights work. In 2012, Frances Milne received an AM for her service to the multicultural communities of NSW, as a contributor to human rights and social justice for refugees and asylum seekers, and to the Uniting Church in Australia.