Project Dignity

Supporting Refugees Seeking Asylum

Tikkun Olam, meaning ‘repair of the world’, is an ancient Jewish concept that’s become synonymous with a call for social justice. As such, Project Dignity Australia (PD) was established by Temple Beth Israel in response to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from many nations who have recently fled to Australia as a place of safety from war and persecution. PD’s activities operate in conjunction with other religious and community organisations that are committed to supporting refugees.

Project Dignity Australia – What we do

Project Dignity Australia operates in partnership with other religious and community organisations that have a commitment to refugee support.

Our partners include The Salvation Army Asylum Seeker Service, Deakin CREATE (Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy Training and Education), Stand Up, and the ASRC (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre).

Together we facilitate a range of practical, educational and cultural activities that contribute to breaking down cultural and religious barriers, relieve poverty and disadvantage, and develop shared understandings and a sense of community.

Refugees experience many problems as they seek to gain permanent or temporary residence in Australia. PD is actively involved in giving practical, material and emotional support to those who have been forced out of their homelands through no fault of their own.

To contact us and become involved, please click here

Refugees, human rights and Project Dignity Australia

In 1945, Australia was a founding member of the United Nations and one of eight nations involved in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, and later ratified by 145 nations at the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1951. Motivated by the harrowing circumstances of the Holocaust and two world wars, this was the first time that countries had agreed on a comprehensive statement of inalienable human rights.

This posed two questions for Australians:

As a signatory of the 1948/51 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what are Australia’s obligations to refugees fleeing from war and persecution today?

Project Dignity was formed on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) 2016, after a call to action by Rabbi Gersh Lazarow in response to the reopening of Manus Island. Rabbi Lazarow believed that we should stand up and help support these vulnerable people.

Today there are more than 15 committee members who together with our partners have succeeded in providing support, companionship and education for families and individuals, many of whom are young and alone.

Click here to read Australia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Click here for the Asylum Seekers’ and Refugees’ Guide – Australian Human Rights

Click here for the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)

Click here for the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors (ARC) and the Union of Progressive Judaism (UPJ) affirmation of the policy of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)  concerning the issue of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

Upcoming Events

Special community event

16 – 20 November, 2021

Watch this space! More details coming soon.

In the News

Bringing relief and a hand up to refugees

An Australian Jewish News article about Project Dignity Crisis Relief program during the COVID lockdown,  4 Sept 2020

Karen honoured for her role in ‘repairing the world’

Major Karen Elkington was awarded the Victorian Multicultural Commission Award for Excellence, 27 Nov 2019

Partners and Donors

We extend our gratitude to the following organisations and businesses for their ongoing support:

Temple Beth Israel           Deakin CREATE

Salvation Army Asylum Seeker Service

Mazon Australia              Port Philip Community Group

Food Filled                       Fareshare

Pinos Fine Produce          Farmers Pick

Our Kitchen Table           Sourdoughmain

Father Bobs Foundation


Crisis Support Program

When COVID-19 hit town in March 2020, asylum seekers found themselves in a desperate state with no jobs and no financial or physical assistance from Victorian or Australian governments.

Project Dignity members hit the ground running and created a crisis relief program that provided food, meals and caring to relieve the terrible isolation and hardship that was experienced by refugee students and families who had escaped terrible suffering.

Film Club

The Project Dignity Film Club was established during the second lockdown in 2020. It’s made up of university students and post-graduates from refugee backgrounds who are well on the way to building new lives in Australia. It took place as a weekly Zoom meeting hosted through Deakin University’s CREATE program.

Each week the students would choose and watch movies together, which was followed by lively discussions. It’s been a huge success that’s built lasting friendships.

Anyone interested in being involved with this event, please contact Dr Karen Dunwoodie, [email protected]

English Conversation

English conversation sessions, run by Project Dignity, strongly impacts an asylum seeker’s ability to integrate into Australian life.

This activity improves their capability to communicate for activities that we take for granted, including shopping, workplace interactions, being a student, and making friends.

People are paired with a volunteer for weekly conversations over Zoom where volunteers and their new-found friends enjoy hearing about each other’s lives and experiences.

Would you like to volunteer for weekly conversations? Then email [email protected]

Programs Project Dignity Supports

The Salvation Army Harmonious Women Support Group

The women’s support program is a program where craft activities are facilitated for women and children by Salvation Army Major Karen Elkington. It takes place in Reservoir on the 2nd & 4th Thursday of the month, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm. Volunteers work with the women and help care for the children to give their mums a break. A cooked meal is provided for participants and volunteers to enjoy together.

Women of all ages are welcome to volunteer. The criteria is that they enjoy interacting with young children and women from refugee backgrounds.

To volunteer or for more information, contact Tracy [email protected]

For women of asylum seeker background who would like to be part of the program please contact Karen [email protected]

The Salvation Army’s Asylum Seeker & Refugee Employment Program

Volunteers needed

We’re looking for warm, friendly people who enjoy helping others to join our volunteer roster. Volunteers work with the program’s Employment Specialist in helping refugees find employment (training is provided). They can also participate in informal conversational English language sessions. The program runs on Mondays and Wednesdays  from 10 am to 1pm, at 12 Tinning Street, Brunswick.

To volunteer or for more information contact Major Karen Elkington: [email protected]

Click here for more information about the program.

Other ways you can help:

Consider employing a refugee or person seeking asylum

We are looking for employers for our motivated, reliable clients all of whom have work rights in Australia but are not part of any Government employment services and receive no Centrelink payments. Most of the job seekers have transport, are educated, highly skilled and all have sufficient English. We also have several highly skilled people with disabilities

Some of the areas of work they are seeking: Personal Care workers/ Home Helpers; Kitchen Hands, Barista/Cafe workers, Administrators (Migrant organisations), Caseworker (Migrant support area), Cleaners, Enrolled Nurses, Health/Patient Services Assistant, Factory Pick and Packing and more

Donate some work clothing for interviews and job opportunities

Donate supermarket or myki vouchers

Donate money to a discretionary fund to subsidise incidental costs that become barriers for employment eg. driving lessons, online certification modules

Please donate online at:

CREATE Careers Clinics Mentoring Program

The Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training and Education (CREATE) aims to help refugees rebuild their careers after leaving their home country through obtaining meaningful employment and access to vocational training and education.

The centre works closely with non-governmental and governmental organizations to develop practical solutions which support refugee integration into the workplace and the vocational and higher education sectors, as well as advocate on behalf of the refugee community to foster policy changes that support such integration.

Click here for more information and to donate

Volunteers needed

We are looking for volunteer mentors with business and academic experience to work with mentees to explore pathways to meaningful employment.

To volunteer, contact Karen Dunwoodie: [email protected]

Programs Run by Asylum Seekers

Tamil Feasts

Tamil Feasts is a social enterprise operating in conjunction with CERES. It supports recently settled asylum seekers through the celebration of food and culture.

Traditional Sri-Lankan feasts (Vegetarian and Vegan options) 3x weekly at the Merri Table Café

Click here for more information and to book

Tamil Feasts will serve their last feast on Friday 31 July.


Not for profit SisterWorks Empowerment Hubs are workplaces and training centres that provide women who are refugees, asylum seekers or migrants with meaningful opportunities to develop pathways of education, employment, entrepreneurship and leadership.

Learning opportunities are delivered through support, design, cooking, business and digital pathways in a safe, friendly and nurturing space.  They aim to assist women to become financially independent and well settled in Australia.

The social enterprise creates local, ethical, handmade items, which are sold online, and in their Richmond and South Yarra shops.

Click here for more information.

ASRC Catering

A social enterprise of the ASRC, we exist to create pathways to employment for people seeking asylum. Our vegetarian menu is inspired by the cultures of the people we employ, delivering a global food experience with impact for your next event or home delivered meal .

Click here for more information and to order or book