“Due to lack of safety and instability caused by the war, I had to resign for a while…”
Lama is a refugee from Syria, she arrived in Brisbane with her brother in 2017. With excellent skills in administration, experience in emergency response overseas through International Red Cross and obvious multilingual talent, by the time 2018 rolled around Lama was snapped up in a role with World Wellness Group in our medical reception and admin team.
Lama’s personal journey enables her to identify with patients and her language skills and cultural understanding provide many of our newly arrived clients with considerable comfort when they attend our clinic.
I was born and raised in Damascus Syria; I completed my Degree in Business Administration and Marketing in 2014 and had a job as an administration coordinator. Due to lack of safety and instability caused by the war, I had to resign for a while. During the times I had between jobs, I would volunteer. In 2015 I volunteered in Damascus with the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development. We provided emergency relief for people in distress, gave emotional and practical support to those who needed it. It was through this organisation that I became experienced and trained in mental health first aid. After a year of volunteering I resumed work but needed to resign within 6 months- fleeing to Erbil, Iraq to meet my brother who was already there. To make it to Australia we needed to have intensive interviews with the Australian ambassador, complete health screens with IOM-UN Migration and wait for news from our visa application whilst in Iraq. While we waited for an outcome I spent time reading about Australia and helped out in a friend’s office. Leaving behind my parents was my greatest sacrifice but also leaving other family, community and friends was difficult, but I keep in close contact with them through social media. Since arriving in Australia, I have completed an English course SEE program through TAFE and volunteered with Australian Red Cross and then I found work within one year with World Wellness Group.
My advice to other refugees: first, take it slowly and work out how to understand the city and public transport get to know your surroundings and suburb because it helps to be familiar with important locations like GP, hospitals, bank, shops etc. Consider your steps towards your career or future and don’t listen too much to those who say it is too hard to make it here. My case manager would ask if everything is fine and I would always answer yes, but I wasn’t to know what I might need help with months after arriving and that was when I no longer had any settlement assistance. If I had my time again, I wouldn’t worry about not speaking up and let my settlement support worker know that we needed more support. One thing that is difficult is that people may assume that I have things under control because I understand and speak English well but some of the systems in Australia are completely different to my country and I needed to figure most this out for myself.
There are people from my country who attend the clinic and it helps them to have someone at the front desk who speaks Arabic and understands their position, to guide them and support them. So many people ask me about non-medical concerns like Centrelink, go cards, bank access etc. It isn’t easy for everyone especially if they are older or don’t have good English skills. Sometimes I take them to the shops after my shift or show them where to go to buy the cultural food they are searching for. When I arrived, we were living in a different suburb but the accommodation was very difficult to live in and we didn’t connect well with the GP who we were allocated to. We moved to a place that we found online ourselves.
After working with WWG I have found out a lot more about the Australian health system and that the ways of WWG is to investigate further asking people about all aspects of health and well-being to find out barriers and advocate for people who struggle with other emotional or practical difficulties. What I love most about my job is helping mental health clients, providing some basic interpreting, making people feel comfortable and providing additional emergency relief with the food pantry. I am very grateful that I have become part the WWG team and have developed friendships out of work with the staff and practitioners.
Co-Founder & Board Director WWG
“Due to the war, my family spent a few years in Austria as refugees prior to coming to Australia…”
Multicultural Peer Support Worker
“The hardest thing about this story is that I left behind my parents along with all my memories with my friends…”
“I lived in a Tanzanian refugee camp with my parents, seven siblings and one uncle…”
Multicultural Peer Engagement Coordinator
“My journey starts in my late teenage years when my physical health began to decline…”
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