Love has no borders for the unsung heroes of Queensland’s asylum seeker community
Mercy Community has celebrated the unsung heroes of Queensland’s asylum seeker community at its annual Oscar Romero Awards Ceremony.
Last year alone, more than 16,000 individuals sought safety and security in Australia, with 3,500 finding refuge in Queensland.
Mercy Community supports around 440 of those seeking asylum through the work of its Romero Centre – which receives no government support and operates solely on donations from the wider community.
Mercy Community Inclusion Manager, Dr Rod Kippax, said the centre’s awards – sponsored by Brisbane’s All Hallow’s School – aimed to shine a light on the triumphant journeys of those forced to leave their homes due to war, natural disasters, poverty, or persecution.
He said: “The Oscar Romero Awards Ceremony is a chance for the Brisbane community to share in the celebration of the inspirational journeys and the unrecognised contribution that people seeking asylum make every day to Queensland.
“There is no doubt in my mind that everyone who came along left feeling inspired, moved, and taken aback by the joy of a community that deeply understands that love has no borders.”
Awards were given for social justice, resilience, and peer support, education, and employment.
The Business with a Heart award went to Logix Engineering at Sumner Park, in Brisbane’s centenary suburbs, and the Organisation with a Heart was given to non-for-profit group Immigration Women’s Support Services, at Highgate Hill.
More than 160 people attended the event (on October 28 at All Hallows School in Fortitude Valley), including Romero supporters, sponsors, participants and volunteers.
Together they helped to raise more than $6,000 for the centre’s programs and services, ensuring that those seeking asylum receive the support they so desperately need.
Dr Kippax said: “This is the second year we’ve run this event, which serves as a platform to honour the extraordinary efforts of people seeking asylum and their human rights advocates.
“We would like to thank everyone who attended for their generosity and support for these resilient individuals, and for their contribution to the ongoing work of the Romero Centre.”
Our award-winning stories
Raphaela (Resilience Award)
The Resilience Award is for those who have shown incredible bravery and determination throughout their journey.
Single mum Raphaela is from Papua New Guinea and is a former track and field athlete turned boxing coach, who arrived in Australia in February 2023.
This brilliant woman has been a beacon of hope for many in her homeland as well as a great advocate of women’s empowerment – something she believes must be instilled from a young age.
Her personal journey has been far from easy, but she has fought her way out of a toxic and abusive life with strength and grace.
She now promises to help other girls and women to survive – but also thrive – and runs a women-only boxing gym in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
Rosario and Rodulfo Rodriguez (Social Justice Award)
This award is for people who have directly advocated for the support of the community we serve and/or created awareness about the barriers people seeking asylum experience in the attempt to uphold their human rights.
Husband and wife Rosario and Rodulfo Rodriguez are truly remarkable individuals who embody the spirit of the Romero Centre and the legacy of St. Oscar Romero – a former Salvadoran Roman Catholic archbishop.
Rosario knows Oscar Romero personally, and her journey from mathematics teacher to successful businesswoman (all while serving the poor alongside the archbishop) is nothing short of inspiring.
Rosario and Rodulfo Rodriguez are not just friends but mentors to the Romero Centre (Rosario heads up the Romero Centre’s Passion for Art group), and their unwavering commitment to social justice and advocacy for people seeking asylum is a testament to the enduring legacy of St. Romero.
We salute their extraordinary contributions and are privileged to honour them.
Dr Muhammad Yusaf (name changed)
Dr Yusaf is a medical doctor from the Middle East who had a well-established practice in his homeland before war broke out.
His asylum seeking journey has been one of great losses. But despite the difficulties, Dr Yusaf has the most generous and resilient spirit.
Through his many community engagements and his eloquent testimonies, he has been an outstanding advocate for Romero Centre in Queensland and interstate.
Dr Yusaf’s deep knowledge, of historical and contemporary issues, continues to amaze us.
His resilience, compassion, and courage will keep inspiring us.
Joyce (Peer Support Award)
This award is for those who, despite their own difficult journey seeking asylum, have shown initiative and commitment in supporting their peers to develop skills or promoting safety and wellbeing.
Despite being one of the Romero Centre’s newest supporters, Joyce has already made a great impact on many of our participants’ lives.
Joyce has supported women from her homelands of Papua New Guinea, teaching them how to use public transport, providing emotional support, and translating during medical appointments as well as co-leading a group trip to northern New South Wales, and starting a vegetable garden in her accommodation for all residents to enjoy.
Joyce has done all this while battling systemic hurdles of being a new asylum seeker in Australia without any resources. She is a true inspiration.