A marathon effort to help support refugees

ON THE RUN: Ballarat refugee advocate David MacPhail is taking part in the Melbourne Marathon to raise $5000 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

ON THE RUN: Ballarat refugee advocate David MacPhail is taking part in the Melbourne Marathon to raise $5000 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

As a gift for his 70th birthday, David MacPhail received registration to run the Melbourne Marathon and a $1000 donation to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre if he could do it. 

The Ballarat refugee advocate, who has been an ASRC volunteer caseworker for seven years, said he was more than keen to put his running shoes on and start raising funds for the not-for-profit organisation. 

The marathon will be the fourth he has done for the centre and his 11th in total. 

“It doesn’t get easier but having done marathons before, I know psychologically what I’m going to experience at the 32km mark and that I’ve done it 10 times before,” Mr MacPhail said.

The ASRC has about 3000 members applying for asylum and demand for services continues to increase, Mr MacPhail said. 

About 200 people a day come in for meals, about 600 a week collect groceries, and the cost of emergency accommodation for the financial year is estimated at about $700,000. 

“The ASRC doesn’t get any federal government funding… and in doing hands-on work with people as a caseworker, I can see that people need housing,” Mr MacPhail said. 

“Part of the organisation’s responsibility is to raise money, so to share that responsibility it seems a small thing to raise $5000, it’s a drop in the bucket.

“But, on the other hand, it complements my responsibility as a caseworker because without that money we can’t operate.”

As of Wednesday, $4400 of the $5000 target had been raised and Mr MacPhail was confident of reaching the target ahead of Sunday’s event.

The money would go towards helping the centre’s key services run, such as emergency housing, legal work, the health clinic, counselling, material aid and education. 

Mr MacPhail, who has also been involved in the Ballarat Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Network and Ballarat’s Bridging the Gap program, said he was pleased about the amount of support for people seeking asylum at a grassroots level.

“I’m noticing that in the regional areas, new groups for organisations like Rural Australians for Refugees are springing up,” he said.

“And when we go to raise money, the harsher policies are and the more difficult it is for people seeking asylum, the more money comes in and the better the community response.

“My experience at ground level is there is a lot of sympathy and a lot of support.”

Mr MacPhail said while “dramatic change” did not happen very often, a difference could be made by working away at it “little by little”.

“I’ll run a marathon and raise $5000 and as little as it is, it’s useful,” he said.

“But what makes it valuable much more so is how that becomes public attention… there is a connection across the community so all the people I encounter through emails and conversations become aware of what I’m doing and become that little bit more interested.”

Melbourne Marathon takes place on October 15. To donate visit run4refugees2017.gofundraise.com.au/page/DavidMacPhail0.