Asylum Homes

Reporter: Clare Brady

Whatever Mohammed does, it's not far from the caring gaze of Hilary McVey. Whether it's cooking or just chatting with me, she sits in the shadows.

Mohammed isn't his real name and he's not the usual house guest. He's a Pakistani refugee who survived the sea, to come to Australia by boat. "Australia is good country", Mohammed said.

Five of his friends died on that boat and one woman gave birth. After years in detention he's been granted a visa and is now learning about our ways by living in Hilary's Melbourne home.

"We've had three refugees to date and it's been very positive. We don't see it as generous, we see it as being able to unite West with East and help these people who have lived through hell", Hilary said.

Feeling the increasing squeeze in detention centres, the Federal Government has joined forces with the Australian Homestay Network and already 3000 people have registered to take refugees into their homes.

AHN's David Bycroft says only genuine offers are considered. "There is a fee, but if you are applying to the program to pay off your mortgage or if you're in it for the money, don't apply", David said.

"It's $140 per week per asylum seeker, with a maximum of two per household but really the host has to spend quite a lot of time helping out the asylum seeker", David said.

In the past year more than five thousand refugees (5,277) have arrived by boat. The majority have come from Afghanistan -- 2,203; followed by almost 1500 from Iran. About 300 have travelled from Iraq, the same from Sri Lanka. "Had they stayed in their own country they would have been killed", Hilary said.

The suburban home placement is a six week tenure where they learn how to catch public transport, fill in Medicare forms and how to apply for a job. "My job is a mechanic", Mohammed said.

"We've only placed 70 people so far but we will place 800 by Christmas", David said.

"They do their own shopping, own cleaning up, they have a shelf in the fridge, pantry and they do their own cooking and they don't outstay their welcome", Hilary said.

They go on to find homes of their own.

We know Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki as the TV personality who makes science accessible. Most of us don't know he came to Australia when he was two, arriving with his Polish parents and initially they called a refugee camp near Albury home. "It was tough in the sense it was very cold, we didn't have a lot of food, but there was no one trying to kill us", Dr. Karl said.

He's made the most of Australia's opportunities and is now a prominent scientist and medical doctor holding degrees in physics, maths, biomedical engineering, medicine and surgery and was awarded an Order of Australia.

His family was lucky. After time in the refugee camp, a local doctor welcomed them into his home and showed them how to make their way in a new country. "Back in the 1950's there was nothing like that for us, we happened to stumble across something like that accidentally. It would be terrific if people had this organised at an official level", he said.

Now they do. "You think Australians are going to be angry about this but they're not. We're just getting overwhelmed with applications, so I'm proud to be Australian and I'm really proud of the fact that people who are a bit cautious and a bit nervous are still saying we'd like to give it a go", David said.

For further information:

www.homestaynetwork.org/cpn