News & Events

Margaret welcomes Syrian refugees

May 12, 2016

During National Volunteer Week (9-15 May 2016) OCAV paid tribute to Rushall Park resident Margaret Finlayson for her commitment to supporting Syrian refugees.

Marg Finlayson isn’t surprised anymore when friends, Rushall Park neighbours and fellow worshippers from St Philip’s Anglican Church in Collingwood, slip her a few dollars. They know she is spending it wisely.

Marg is putting together welcome gift boxes for Syrian refugees bound for Australia. She is filling the decorated boxes with lovely, but practical gifts for men, women and children.

There are 200 of the gift boxes finished and stored at the Church waiting for a home when the refugees finally arrive, some time in 2016. Marg has presents ready to fill dozens more boxes, but storage space is a problem at the moment.

The idea to put the gift boxes together came when the St Philip’s women’s group gathered over a meal. Marg had been interested to read last year about the Greek people handing the refugee children a toy when they landed on their shores. She encouraged the other women and parishioners to begin collecting things for the gift boxes. The idea soon took off amongst residents at Rushall Park.

“I really thought I would get a few things, but I had no idea that so many people would be so generous. People here are always giving me money and small gifts to make up the boxes,” she said.

“I have people coming up to me and giving me an envelope with money in it. Or they give me lovely gifts to put in the box,” Marg said. “I take the money and go and buy things for the various ages, like lovely scarves and hand cream for the women and tee shirts, story books and pencils for the children. For the men I have tried to buy a towel, socks and hankies.”

Marg believes the gift boxes have given people of compassion an opportunity to show some kindness and to do something constructive for the 12,000 Syrian refugees coming to Australia. She, like many other Australians, is bitterly disappointed that to date only about 30 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Australia.

Fred Wandmaker, who lives in a nearby cottage at Rushall Park, is also involved, sharpening people’s knives and other appliances in exchange for a donation to the project.

Marg has no plans to stop collecting and says she will keep putting the gift boxes together until the money and support from others runs out. The gift boxes will then become part of a larger distribution by the Anglican Church to Christian and Muslim refugees.

Margaret and her husband, John, have been at Rushall Park for 12 years.

Vale John Finlayson
John died on January 7 2017.


“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome.  Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.

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