Charity Focus: Footscape

How can you help people seeking asylum?

Anthony Lewis
By Anthony Lewis
CEO Footscape
Since completing his Bachelor of Podiatry at La Trobe University in 2000 Anthony Lewis has worked in a range of Australian healthcare settings serving marginalised population groups predisposed to foot pathology. Observing the startling implications of debilitating foot pathology upon the most vulnerable has motivated Anthony to establish Footscape. Anthony has completed further post graduate studies extending to a Master of Public Health at Flinders University and Graduate Certificate in Wound Care at Monash University.


This past April marks nine years that Footscape has proudly provided volunteer podiatry clinical services for members of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).


What is the ASRC?

The ASRC works directly with asylum seekers living in the community to provide direct aid and support as they await an outcome of their refugee determination application in Australia. 


This centre enables people to feel welcome, safe and supported. It also serves as an important platform for podiatry services within the holistic delivery of primary health services.


How you can get involved in the ASRC


Volunteering opportunities exist for health professionals to get involved and there may well be remote opportunities available for general volunteer roles. To register your interest, head here, or get in touch with Footscape to volunteer your services through their existing partnership with the ASRC. 


The challenge for asylum seekers

Asylum seekers have difficulty prioritising their foot health given that other acute and crisis necessities demand immediate focus. Yet asylum seekers need to be able to access podiatry services and achieve optimum foot health. This is central towards maintaining independence and quality of life, including  opportunities for social engagement and inclusion. 


Where Footscape comes in 

The ASRC Health Program Manager, Sheenagh McShane, explains how Footscape helps address these issues:


“Often people seeking asylum face many barriers when trying to access the Australian health system. Many have limited English language skills, low health literacy, lack of income and they often have competing priorities such as legal, housing and employment issues. 


“Health, and in particular foot health, is often ignored whilst trying to navigate the refugee determination process and settling into Australian life. The role of the ASRC Health Program and Footscape is to facilitate access to podiatry services in order to achieve optimum foot health.

“Footscape and ASRC have been working together since 2012 when Anthony established the podiatry clinic to provide furnishing, equipment and his clinical services on a fortnightly basis. 


“Something as simple as a good pair of socks and shoes can change a person’s quality of life in an instant. Footscape has been able to source new footwear, new socks, orthotic devices and foot care kits as part of no-cost treatment plans to ASRC members.”


How this can relate to you

While this initiative is Melbourne-based, similar entities exist around Australia to support those seeking asylum. If you would like to provide similar support, no matter where your location, contact Footscape for advice on where to start.