Bikes for Refugees

The Bicycle Institute's "Bikes For Refugees" project recycles bikes and donates them, free of charge, to refugee families recently arrived in Australia, and to other needy sections of the community. Most bikes are donated by members of the public, or occasionally business. The scheme started in 2002, and has so far handled over 3000 bicycles.

Most  recipientsare from the refugee community or asylum seeker community. They will have a case worker from a recognised welfare organisation, e g Migrant Resource Centre, Red Cross, Anlglicare etc. We generally supply bikes on the basis of referral only, ie their case worker needs  to contact us first, to verify eligiblity, and make an appointment. We also accept referrals from  e.g  volunteers working with refugees; other members of the refugee community.

In 2013-14, Bikes for Refugees handled around 400 bicycles, mostly adult bikes. Of these, roughly 5 bikes in 6  - 340 bikes - were returned to rideable condition, and given out  free of charge to people in need. Of the rest, 2/3 are used to source parts,  to repair others bikes; and 1/3 were sold to raise funds.

We are currently based at Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop - 34 Long Street Plympton. We are there every Saturday morning, 9 am to 12 noon.

Bikes for Refugees is a registered charity with the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profits Commission.  It is also registered (as 'Bikes for Refugees SA Incorporated') as an Incorporated Association in S Australia (ABN 20 663 461 735).   A copy of the governing documents is available on request.


How Bikes for Refugees started In 2002, the sister of a Bicycle Institute member, travelling on a bus, over-heard some African people speaking French. She found they had recently arrived from Congo, were cyclists in Africa, and wondered if they could get bikes here. She asked her brother if The Bicycle Institute could find bikes for them. Institute members responded with 18 bikes: 4 fully equipped, went to four new arrivals around Christmas, and another 14 to the Australian Refugee Association (ARA) a few months later.

The Need: Each year Australia accepts 13,000 refugees. Most arrive on the Commonwealth humanitarian migration program. As Adelaide is designed around cars, transport is a major problem. It can take several months and several thousand dollars, to obtain a driving licence. In the meantime people rely on public transport, lifts, and perhaps bikes to get around.

Children can ride around with friends, play, or run errands for their parents. Young people cycle to school, study or library, or sports matches. Adults also find the bikes useful e.g get to English classes or to work, or to ride to keep fit. Hardly any refugees have a driving licence when they arrive - getting one takes up to a year, and several thousand dollars for lessons.


What we do:  The scheme involves two areas of skill: recycling; and bicycle mechanics.    Our core expertise, is supplying reliable second-hand bikes. This involves sourcing bikes; assessing condition; cleaning, repairing, servicing; testing for safety and road worthiness.  A fair amount of mechanical knowledge is needed, along with familiarity with the various types of bikes sold in the last 20 years.

Other activities

  • free bike repairs, for refugee families and people looking after them.. People who get bikes from us, can bring them back for help with repair.
  •  support for local councils, OPAL, and other organisations to  run bike activities. e.g bike-building events; bikes for cycling education classes; "Bring & Fix" where the public can bring along bikes and have them repaired.
  • In 2009, we organised a one-off collection of 100+ bikes, to assist Aboriginal communities in SA and the NT, and to help schools with Aboriginal students in Whyalla and Port Augusta.
  • sales of bikes and bike part : a small percentage of bikes are offered for sale, to raise funds for parts, maintenance, etc
  • Helmets, locks, lights:  People need these in order to cycle safely, and to prevent their bike from being stolen. As demand greatly exceeds supply of donated goods,  we stock good quality new items for sale,  at below retail price.
  • Environmental protection. Bikes for Refugees aims to improve the environment by (a) diverting unwanted bikes and parts from general refuse, and putting them back into use; (b) encouraging the use of bicycles for transport, thus lowering environmental impact, and reducing carbon pollution.


Location & opening hours Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop, c/o Community Centre,  34 Long Street, Plympton ..  Saturday mornings 9-12. Just drive to the car park at the back of the hall, you'll usually find people working on bikes.


How the scheme operates.  

Most of our bikes are donated by the public - e.g bikes they no longer ride; or children have outgrown.

Each bike is numbered, and  tracked through the scheme. We record make, model, colour, and serial number, plus donor. The bike gets a tag with the number tied securely to the handlebars and is stored "as received" until needed.

In Adelaide several welfare organisations and charities work with refugee familes. If a client requests a bike, their case worker  contacts us.. we make an appointment for a Saturday morning, so the client can then come to the Bike workshop, see what bikes are available, and pick one out. they usually have to wait while the bike is repaired and checked. They can then test ride it and adjust it, fit accessories etc. 

If clients can't  come to the workshop, their case worker can order a bike from us, and pick it up a week or two later.



Resources and funding: The scheme aims to be self-funding, from sales, and from donations. We keep costs low, by using secondhand or donated parts. Currently the scheme receives no grants or government assistance, other than use of the Adelaide Community Bike Workshop facilities at Plympton, provided  by West Torrens Council.

You can help us the following ways

  •  Donate a bike or bike accessories. -see below.
  • Buy a bike from "Bikes for Refugees"   We offer  economically priced, secondhand bikes. We also sometimes have interesting historical bikes for restoration. Please contact us to see what's on hand.
  • Buy bike parts from "Bikes for Refugees"  We also sell recycled  parts, for bike repairs for steel- and aluminium-frame bikes including old bikes.  As we're based at Adelaide Community Bicycle Workshop, you can also -  for a donation to the Workshop -  use tools and facilities, and do the repair yourself.  Workshop  volunteers  explain what to do, and which tools you'll need.
  • Become a volunteer  We're looking for people with: interest and some experience in bike maintenance/repair; able to turn up for 2-3 hours on Saturday mornings; friendly and patient with people from a range of backgrounds. If you want to improve  your skills with bike mechanics - and you don't mind a little dust and grease - please contact us.


 Employment and volunteer work for young people from refugee background: We sometimes offer casual Saturday morning jobs, for young people, to help with bike repair. The jobs provide pocket money while they study; an employment reference, plus experience of the Australian workplace culture. 


Donating a bike, parts, accessories, or clothing  We  take bikes that are basically in good condition, and can be returned to active service relatively easily. A small amount of rust, or flat tyres, are acceptable. All bikes get safety-checked, and serviced.   Just bring the bike to 34 Long Street,  Plympton any Saturday morning, 9 am to 12 noon.

We also accept spare parts; helmets, locks, lights, and other accessories, to give out along with the bikes; and cycling clothing if as-new e.g souvenier cycling tops worn maybe on one occasion only.

NB - The Australian Refugee Association also accepts donations of household goods, in good condition, e.g. furniture, soft furnishings, toys, etc. - to give out, as part of their Settlement program. Please contact the ARA directly to discuss (telephone 8354 2951) or see their website.



Our Thanks to all people and organisations, who have donated bikes.  Thanks also to volunteers who restore, check, and repair bikes. Each bike takes overall a couple of hours work, and over the years, many people have helped.

Special thanks  to Kevin Clarke at Clarke's Cycles, 354 Magill Road, Kensington Park (tel. 8332 3083), for long term support.

Other bike shops have also supported us, with discounts, advice, donations of bike boxes, parts, and bikes: These include: Lifecycles; JT Cycles; Plympton Cycles; Stepney Cycles; Bernie Jones Cycles.

Contact - : Please contact Mike Brisco on 8365 7489 (leave message) SMS 0435 02 16 81;  email


Further information:

Information sheet for organistions or individuals wanting bikes

Checking procedure, 2011

Roadworthiness documentation - example

Report on 2009 Bikes for the Outback Scheme

2009 Annual Report, on Bikes for Refugees

Notes on how we recycle old bikes

Notes on how the scheme is organised


Bikes for Refugees is the operating name / business name of "Bikes for Refugees SA Inc", ABN 20 663 461 735, registered as an Incorporated Association in South Australia (A 42240).


Last up dated 28 July 2014.

2009reportBikesforRefugees.pdf489.88 KB
Bikerecyclingnotes2009.pdf118.82 KB
Bikerecyclingnotes2005.pdf1.75 MB
example of letter of roadworthiness.pdf60.93 KB
Information for organisations needing bikes for their clients.pdf27.45 KB
Safety checklist.pdf57.3 KB