About us

Bridge for Asylum Seekers Inc (Bridge) is a not-for-profit association seeking to prevent destitution and homelessness among people seeking asylum who live in greater Sydney/NSW.
Bridge is managed by a volunteer management committee which raises and distributes the funds required to support asylum seekers in need, our clients. Over 95% 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 rental support. Many living essentials are unfunded by any other source – such as food, clothing, pharmaceuticals, transport cards and phone costs with the latter two allowing people to seek employment and remain in contact with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), legal representatives and caseworkers. We give our clients autonomy over their living allowances as it provides a measure of control to those who have little control over any other aspect of their lives and as each person/family will have different needs.
Note: Both living allowance and rental support amounts provided by Bridge are a small fraction of Australia’s Job Seeker allowance.
Since 2003 (Bridge’s inception) to end financial year 2019-20, Bridge has assisted 2320 asylum seekers. In 2019-20, Bridge supported 167 people of whom 34 were children. Recently, an average of 75 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 is an independent charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Bridge is endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) and has received Charity Tax Concession status. This means that all donations over $2 are tax deductible and that donation and grant income is not taxable.  Current details for ABN 18 494 407 210 | ABN Lookup (business.gov.au).

About those supported

All those supported by Bridge are people who have fled their home countries. They are represented by reputable lawyers and have either applied for protection in Australia or are in the process of so doing. Before receiving our support, their financial situation will have been reviewed to show insufficient funds to survive.
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 the last 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)
Rebecca Ding (Treasurer)
Felicia Tesoriero (Secretary)
Jack Collins (General committee member)
Ruth Kestermann (General committee member)
Caroline Mackie (General committee member)
Janice Thompson (General committee member)
Kate Jones (General committee member)
Bridge has always been run by volunteers.

Bridge: our foundation story

In the early 2000s, Virginia Walker started to visit asylum seekers in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC), Sydney. She started to learn of the financial difficulties many had once outside detention. Two examples:
  • a Shia Kuwaiti man, let’s call him SK. After meeting Virginia, SK was transferred by Immigration to Western Australia. However, SK’s migration lawyer was in Sydney and he needed to visit Sydney for a lawyer’s interview. Immigration paid for SK’s return plane fare but gave him nothing for expenses. He arrived at Sydney airport penniless with no place to stay. He rang Virginia and she invited SK to stay with her and supported him financially.
  • a man learned he was to be released the next day from VIDC. He had no place to stay, no money, no friends, no work rights, no Centrelink support. Virginia found and paid for cheap daily accommodation but the man and all his worldly goods had to be out of the room by the early morning and could not return until late afternoon. Clearly this was both unsuitable and expensive.
These and similar experiences compelled Virginia and other VIDC visitors to act. One of those was Frances Milne, a member of the Uniting Church and, acting upon her suggestion and subsequent representation, Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation became an autonomous committee under the auspices of Uniting. Uniting provided 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.
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.
At the end of 2020, Bridge for Asylum Seekers became an independent incorporated association.