People arriving in South Australia from war-torn countries are set receive additional education, housing, and medical support from the state government as part of a new humanitarian package.

The package includes waivers of international student fees and public hospital costs, support to cover bond and early rental payments, free metro cards for public transport travel, $100 grocery vouchers, and assistance to access disability supports. 

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said people fleeing conflicts often arrived in Australia on temporary visas, which restricted their access to “basic supports” such as Medicare and Centrelink.

He said the state government-funded package would help people fleeing the Israel-Hamas and Ukraine conflicts.

“This is substantial support for the families it affects, but modest in the context of state government resources,” he said.

The package of support for new arrivals to SA includes waivers of international school fees and public hospitals costs.(ABC News: Evelyn Leckie)

“We are a first-world country, we are exceptionally wealthy, we have it within our means to show compassion and generosity to other people coming from other parts of the world fleeing desperate circumstances as refugees.”

The state government estimates there are fewer than 100 people who have fled war-torn countries and are now living in South Australia on temporary visas.

It states the cost of the support package will depend on the number of people who arrive on temporary visas, and which supports they require.  

The federal government has capped the number of places in Australia’s humanitarian visa program in 2023-24 to 20,000.

Mr Malinauskas described the cap as “very modest”.

“Germany has got over 1 million Ukrainian alone, Poland has got 1 million,” he said.

“The numbers that we take as a country are very modest in the scheme of things and, of course, that’s at a time when we’re actually looking for more people to work in critical industries.

“In fact, we need more people to work in unskilled industries.”

Refugees arriving in SA with ‘just one suitcase’

Stepan Sturko came to Australia almost two years ago from Ukraine.

He said it was a “big challenge” to start a new life from scratch.

“You don’t bring with you documents, you don’t bring with you nothing,” he said.

“We arrived in Australia with just one suitcase.”

Stepan Sturko said it was a “big challenge” starting a new life in Australia after fleeing conflict in Ukraine.(Steve Opie)

Mr Sturko said the new support package would ensure his children could live comfortably in South Australia. 

“We see big opportunities for our kids and here we can also support our country because we have a job,” he said.

‘Little Amal’ a symbol for refugees’ plight

The state government announced the humanitarian support package at the launch of a 3.5-metre-tall puppet called Little Amal, which is on show for three days as part of the Adelaide Festival.

The 10-year-old Syrian refugee puppet symbolises human rights, including those of refugees, and has travelled to 15 countries since 2021.

Mr Malinauskas said the state government spent $2.3 million to bring the puppet to Adelaide.

The Little Amal puppet walks among a crowd at Festival Plaza in Adelaide’s CBD.(Steve Opie)

“I’m pretty excited that Little Amal is going to be free and publicly accessible to the South Australian public over the course of this weekend,” he said.

“It’s hard for people to appreciate the power of Little Amal without seeing her in person.

“There is something quite beautiful and striking about Little Amal that invites us to think about how as a country we can continue to show compassion, as we have over generations, to people coming from other parts of the world in rather desperate circumstances.”

The Little Amal puppet performs in a welcome to country ceremony at Festival Plaza. (Steve Opie )