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‘Something for everyone’: book embraced by refugee, migrant, wider community

By Fiona West | February 23, 2023

Navitas Skilled Futures (NSF) and Settlement Services International (SSI) have proudly launched a book written for newcomers to Australia to help them with their settlement.

From Iraq to Australia: Jewels from My Journey, by NSF Stakeholder Engagement Manager Basim Shamaon, was officially launched in Fairfield on Wednesday 22 February among representatives from refugee and migrant support services and organisations, government and community leaders, local groups, members of the CALD community, NSF staff and former students.

The 38-page book, which tells the story of Basim’s journey from Iraq to Australia in 2005 and subsequent successful settlement, is available in libraries and online. Copies will be also distributed free to the refugee and migrant community.

L-R: Mayor Frank Carbone, Yamamah Agha (SSI), Basim Shamaon and Michael Cox (NSF).

Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone told the room of more than 100 people that Basim’s book, which provides tips and suggestions for others, as well as a chapter on “myths” and an appendix of essential migrant and refugee services, had something in it for everyone.

“This book shines a light on all the people that have come to here,” Mayor Carbone said.

“It’s not easy to leave your home, to leave your family, and to come to a place where you have to speak a new language, you have to develop new skills, a place to set up a new future; and unfortunately it’s not getting any easier.

“The challenges of housing, of jobs for new arrivals, the challenges to be able to come to a new place with new language, new customs, new culture, that only gets bigger and bigger.

“No matter if we have wonderful services like SSI and Navitas and many other services in our community that do wonderful work, the truth is it is getting tougher. So I hope this book will inspire others.

“Basim has always been very active in our community and has worked very hard, through volunteering, advocacy and even running for the local council, and he does it because he genuinely wants to make a difference to other people’s lives.”

The book’s author, Basim Shamaon, who wrote the book to help others.

Basim agreed that Australia “like any other country” had its challenges when it came to integrating new arrivals

“I faced those challenges too, and I struggled – a lot. But I found my place in this country, and my message to newly arrived migrants and refugees is that you can too.”

“It isn’t always easy – in fact it can be very tough and lonely. I have tried to provide some tips and useful resources in my book to hopefully help make that transition easier for people.”

The launch heard from two people who have faced those challenges and benefited from the assistance of SSI and NSF when they arrived in Australia as refugees.

Dr Yousif Alloo (above right), who came to Australia in 2016 when ISIS forced his family of eight to flee Iraq, learned English and used his skills as a Doctor in Psychology to help other new Australians in his community to care for their mental health.

“When I came to Australia in 2016, SSI welcomed me and helped me to settle in this blessed land. I then went to study at Navitas Fairfield where the teachers helped me to improve my language skills. I enjoyed studying at Navitas,” Yousif said.

“I had retired in Iraq but in Australia I wanted to do something to give back. I became a volunteer with CORE where I delivered sessions and workshops to assist refugees on topics related to mental health, domestic violence, family issues, healthy relationships, and education of children and adolescents. I have also been involved in mentoring men program providing one on one support to men.”

Zuhal Mosleh is looking forward to her future in Australia.

Zuhal Moseh, who fled Afghanistan with her family last year when the Taliban took over, said she loved have the opportunity to learn in Australia and make future work and lifestyle choices – even if there were too many things to choose from.

“I always wanted to become a journalist but I keep changing my mind!” Zuhal laughed. “But hopefully I will do something to help people.

“I want to thank SSI for helping me and my family. I also want to thank Navitas Skilled Futures for helping me to learn English, as well as the special sewing class.

“I am looking forward to learning more English and using the computer. I am also looking forward to learning to drive. In my country women can’t drive, women can’t do a lot of things. I am very happy to be here where I am getting an education and can learn new things and work.”

Proud supporters of the book: Jetinder Macfarlane (NSF) and Yamamah Agha.

Navitas Skilled Futures General Manager, Jetinder Macfarlane, said NSF was proud to help Basim launch this “well-written, emotive and informative” resource. 

“This heart-warming book is a testament to Basim’s life-long commitment to helping others in the community that we serve at Navitas Skilled Futures,” Jetinder said. 

“I think Basim’s story will resonate with others and empower them in their own settlement journeys, but this book is also for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for Australia’s refugees and migrants, or for those who have faced and overcome adversity in life.” 

More than 100 people attended the book launch in refugee heartland at Fairfield RSL.

SSI General Manager Newcomers, Settlement and Integration, Yamamah Agha, said Basim’s story demonstrates the resilience and strength found in refugee communities. 

“Being a ‘refugee’ is a transient period in someone’s life. These are individuals with multi-faceted identities, which Basim demonstrates, while also reminding us of everything Australia has to gain by welcoming refugees,” she said.

“It is particularly heartening to see Basim’s work within the community.

“Community leaders like Basim play an important role in supporting refugees to build a sense of belonging and inclusion in their new homes.” 

The launch of From Iraq to Australia: Jewels from My Journey will feature speeches from the author and new migrants and refugees, multicultural entertainment, refreshments, and an opportunity to take home a free copy of Basim’s book.  

From Iraq to Australia: Jewels from My Journey is listed with the National Library of Australia in Canberra and is currently available at all Fairfield City Libraries branches, and the digital version can be accessed free online: From Iraq to Australia – Jewels from My Journey. (  

Many guests wore traditional Chaldean dress.
More than 100 people attended the event, hosted by NSF and SSI at Fairfield RSL.

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