Thinking globally, acting locally

A small contingent of the MARS group L-R: Sue Goding, Matt McClelland, Margot Ryan, Lee Nicholls, Margaret Grey, Lauren Jeffreys (MARS coordinator) and Sue Teltscher.

Late last year, a group of 15 local residents banded together to form Mount Alexander Refugee Support to lend a hand to refugees during the early stages of setting up a life in a new country.

Participating in an Australian government pilot program called CRISP (Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot), the local group will be matched with either a family of four or two individuals, and be responsible for providing them with accommodation, household items and hands-on assistance as they navigate life in a foreign country.

Since its inception, MARS members have meet regularly and formed various working groups, to discuss how to best support the arrival of their refugees as they transition towards independence over 12 months.

The trained MARS members will be matched with people who have humanitarian visas to access government services, but no experience of the banking, public transport, health, education, employment, and recreational networks in the area, and who will require support and tangible assistance.

MARS member Peter McKean said his desire to be involved was due to the overwhelming numbers of refugees needing assistance.
“The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates there are more than 34 million registered refugees worldwide,” Peter said.

“That could be any of us. We’re just lucky because of where we happen to live.

“If you can do something, why wouldn’t you?”

So far, MARS has had fantastic support and assistance from Castlemaine Community House, Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR), Castlemaine Mail, Midland Express, Mount Alexander Shire Council, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, MaineMovers, the Jazz Jam, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine Uniting Church, Cassina Environmental and all the very special people who have donated, but there is a still a lot to be done and the group is calling out to the broader community for support in raising the necessary funds and supplies, and particularly to find an appropriate rental accommodation for the new arrivals.

If you are interested in supporting this worthwhile cause, visit:, contact the group at: or attend one of the two upcoming fundraising events:

* Baroquail – The Music Concert.
April 27, 2.30pm Castlemaine Uniting Church.
For tickets, go to–castlemaine/baroquial

* Damage. A special screening and directors Q and A
May 2, Theatre Royal – 7.30pm.
For tickets visit: