Celebrating Refugee Week 2023
Navitas Skilled Futures students and staff celebrated Refugee Week this week by attending and engaging in events outside the colleges, to help spread positive messaging about the contribution of refugees to Australia.
Refugee Week, held this year from Sunday 18 June to Saturday 24 June, aims to educate people about refugees and refugee services, help people understand settlement challenges, and learn how they can help provide a safe and welcoming environment. This year’s theme is ‘Finding Freedom’.
CELEBRATING THE AMEP
At a special Refugee Week Event at Parliament House, Canberra, NSF was invited by the Department of Home Affairs to present the story of one student’s settlement journey to representatives from refugee and humanitarian organisations, the United Nations High Commission, and Members of Federal Parliament, including the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles.
Adult Migrant Education Program (AMEP) student Dr Karima Hamed Faryabi (pictured above with NSF EGM Michael Cox and Minister Giles) fled Taliban rule in Afghanistan with her two children almost two years ago. She spoke of how her classes at NSF Canberra College were not only helping her with “Aussie English”, but were also integral to her overall successful settlement.
“When I came to college I didn’t feel alone anymore,” she said. “To meet people from other countries, like me, who understood what I was going through, helped reduce my stress. We are all at different levels of learning English, with different goals, but we all help and support each other.
“The teachers at Navitas also have such a positive way of guiding us, showing us the path and helping us learn from our mistakes. Everyone is so kind and respectful and I am so happy to be here“
Karima, who was a politician and GP in Afghanistan, hopes to practice medicine in Australia and is focused on improving her academic English. She has done volunteer work for several charities and organisations and this year was employed by the Australian National University (ANU) as a Problem-Based Learning consultant for second year medical students.
She also recently got her driver’s licence, which she said she desparately needed to transport her nine-year-old son to “many hours of soccer training and games”, and her daughter to school (she is in Year 11 and wants to be a doctor, like her mother). Karima has now learned the term “Mum’s taxi”.
“I am so grateful to the Australian Government, to Navitas and the community for helping us. The support has meant I have achieved a lot. But my biggest achievement really is surviving – being able to come to a beautiful, safe county and being alive with my kids.”
WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN
Also in the ACT, Canberra Refugee Support presented its annual Geoff McPherson Education Awards to assist refugee students with further education and development goals, including three AMEP students from NSF. Homaira, from Afghanistan, Jazmin, from Venezuela, and Chawsu, from Burma (pictured above with NSF Canberra staff Sharon Gilbert and Anita Yan), were all happy and quite emotional to receive the awards.
Each endured their own battles to get to Australia, and appreciate the opportunity to start a new life in a safe country. Homaira, who has five sons and one daughter, wants to study film production so she can tell stories of women’s plight in her homeland; Jazmin does volunteer work but hopes to return to her profession as a travel agent; and Chawsu, who spent 24 years in a Thai refugee camp, said she was just focusing on her English for now so she could one day get a job in Australia.
We all support each other,” Jazmin said. “We listen to each other’s stories and we talk to each other. This is helping us with our English, and with our lives.
Homaira said Australia was “a happy place” for women. “There is freedom here for women. I can work here; I can study. My daughter is working here – she’s not scared. All my sons are very happy. In Afghanistan people not listen to women and bad things happen. I want to tell their stories – they are important.”
FINDING FREEDOM – INSPIRING STORIES
In South West Sydney, staff and students from all colleges participated in several community events, including a colourful festivity in Cabramatta, “Finding Freedom – Inspiring Stories of Refugees”, co-hosted by NSF Stakeholder Engagement Manager Basim Shamaon, with songs, dance, musical performances and stories, including that of Fairfield AMEP student Soghran Mohammadi.
Soghran (pictured above with Basim), who came to Australia from Afghanistan with her father and sister earlier this year, said it took six years to get their visa, after escaping to Turkey. But it had proved to be worth the wait.
“As many of you have experienced, moving from one country to another is not an easy journey,” she said. “We faced so many problems, but we had to stay strong and be patient.
“Coming to Australia was a dream for me, as I only wanted to live in a safe place and establish a good life. As a young woman, I wanted to study and become a dental assistant but in Afghanistan women we not allowed to study; that’s why we decided to come to Australia for better opportunities, especially for us women.
“I am currently studying full-time at Navitas Fairfield to improve my language skills as well as employment skills. I have made some new friends at school from different countries, and I am very happy to be in Australia.”
BLESSED TO BE IN AUSTRALIA
At another Finding Freedom event in Bankstown attended by NSF classes, AMEP Bankstown student Nezar Elias Alshikh (pictured above right) spoke about his journey to Australia last year with his family from Syria, where he was a pediatrician and his wife had been an engineer.
“When we came to Australia we faced many challenges,” he said. “The first one is language, because I studied medicine in my country in Arabic. At Navitas I improved my English language because we have good teachers and I studied hard. First I will improve my language and after that I will present my scientific competency to work as a pediatrician or General Practitioner in Australia, because I have 35 years’ experience in my country.
“In Australia we enjoy a free and democratic country. We are all equal before the law. My kids will study in good schools and I will enjoy freedom, peace and security in Australia.“
Basim also spoke on a panel, telling his personal settlement story and providing advice to others on learning English, setting goals, volunteering and giving back to society.
“In Australia we are so blessed, and there are so many opportunities out there,” he said. “It’s a multicultural country. Australia made me feel like I was always part of the country, I wasn’t a stranger. Please keep trying, learn the language, volunteer and many doors will open – and never give up.”
REFUGEE ART AND CULTURE
NSF Liverpool students and staff attended the Refugee Artist Market in Liverpool this week, organised to celebrate the rich diversity of the refugee community and showcase the skills and creativity of local artists from refugee backgrounds.
Among paintings, crocheted goods, wood carving art, framed glass art and jewellery, four NSF students exhibited, and also sold, some of their works.
One of the students, Yasameen Albo Hameed (pictured above top right), has also been selected to take part in an ‘envirographics’ project at the Liverpool Health and Academic Precinct at Liverpool Hospital. Yasameen was one of five South West Sydney artists from migrant, refugee or CALD backgrounds selected to work with professional artists to develop original artworks that will be reproduced at large scale for increased wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.
“I love to draw and make art,” Yasameen said. “I can’t wait to see it on the walls where it can be enjoyed by others.”
In a busy week for NSF, stakeholder engagement managers also attended a number of events held by other migrant and refugee assistance orgnisations, to show ongoing support and friendship within our communities.