121 - 179 Greigs Rd, Truganina VIC 3029

Our History

Our History

Edmund Rice Refugee Services (ERRS) was established in 2002 as a Christian Brothers initiative to provide educational and learning support to newly arrived refugee communities in St Albans, an inner western suburb of Melbourne. Since the 1950s, the Brimbank area (of which St Albans and Sunshine are a part) has been a magnet for the resettlement of migrant and refugee communities due to it's relatively low housing costs and high cultural diversity. During a twelve-month research period in 2001, Br Chris Meehl, the original founder of ERRS and head of the Ministry, discovered that very few young people of a refugee background (of Afghani and Middle Eastern decent mainly) were completing secondary school in the St Albans area (Western English Language Centre, 2011). With the Christian Brothers' strong focus on education and learning, it is not surprising then that a decision was made to establish an after school-hours learning support program, or as it became affectionately known, a ‘Homework Club’.

The goal of the Homework Club was to work alongside the local schools to facilitate access for students of a refugee background to education and learning through targeted tutoring support. The program operated on Mondays and Wednesdays after school and on Saturday mornings during the school term. Initially, the Homework Club relied on Christian Brothers and adult volunteers to provide one to one tutoring for the children and young people who attended the service. This volunteer base was extended soon after ERRS opened it's doors to include 'peer tutors', who were senior high school students from secondary schools around Victoria (and their teachers) who were actively engaged in social justice advocacy through community service programs. In 2005, the Homework Club program expanded to operate out of a local Catholic school in Sunshine where it assisted up to 30 students per week until 2010, when it closed it's doors due to declining numbers and the development of other learning support programs in the area. The Sunshine Homework Club provided services for students of a Sudanese, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Chin Burmese background.

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The St Albans Homework Club continued to grow with Brothers such as Sean McManus, Frank Hennessey and Terry Giles at the helm. From 2003 onwards the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East in the St Alban’s area declined due to the provision of cheaper housing in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. The St Albans Homework Club from 2005 onward predominantly provided services for students of a Sudanese background with a small number of recently arrived members of the Burmese refugee community. By 2011, children and young people of a Sudanese background constituted nearly all of the service users of the St Albans Homework Club and the subsidiary programs (Drop In Centre, Girls Mentoring Program) conducted by the Ministry. Over the years many of the young learners involved in the learning support programs, who were refugees, have taken their place as citizens and members of Australian society. Many have even returned to become tutors to new generations of refugee young people.

In March of 2012, to recognise this positive shift in culture and demographics, Edmund Rice Refugee Services officially changed its name to Edmund Rice Community and Refugee Services (ERCRS). This was a subtle but important expansion in the ministry's scope to be inclusive of all young people, refugee or otherwise disadvantaged, who require learning support, and participation in social and recreational activities to improve the quality of their lives.