Since moving to Australia in 1998 due to political and civil unrest in Iraq, Bashar Hanna has faced and overcome the many challenges of establishing himself personally and professionally in a foreign land.
He now uses his firsthand experience and academic expertise to help other people from migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds find home in Australia.
After arriving in Australia, Bashar, like many newcomers, struggled to find employment and find his place in the wider community.
“I was really lost, and I went through a stage of depression. I couldn’t work as an engineer and I couldn’t find any simple job. It was a struggle,’ he said.
Bashar explained his breakthrough moment was beginning work in the real estate industry, where he developed a strong connection to Sydney’s refugee and migrant communities
“When you work in the real estate industry, you meet people. You enter their houses and are more exposed to their struggle. I was very successful in that area, but I realised that I felt the need to help people.”
Now, 15 years on, Bashar has shifted professions into the social and education sectors; having gained a degree in Adult Education, a master’s in Social Sciences and a Diploma of Art Therapy, among various complementary qualifications.
He now works as a Community Liaison Team Leader at Prairiewood High School, Arts and Community Development Consultant at the Fairfield Arts & Community Development Centre and is President of the Australian Mesopotamian Cultural Association Incorporated.
As a leader in the Sydney’s migrant and refugee communities, Bashar uses his skills to help newcomers survive and thrive in this rapidly changing COVID-19 world.
For example, throughout the pandemic, Bashar has continued running the Centre for Arts and Community development, a privately funded community organisation he established in 2014.
One of the programs Bashar runs out of the center is the Community Engagement and Empowerment Program (CEEP). CEEP works with people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds to help them increase their capability and build their capacity to find a job.
Throughout the pandemic Bashar has also collaborated with Sydney’s creative community to develop Arabic language videos for the public, to support their wellbeing and reduce stress during COVID-19. He plans to continue developing online in language content and expanding his focus into English language learning. You can find Bashar’s videos here.
Bashar and his team of volunteers at the Arts and Community Development Centre have also been working hard to adapt to changes in the employment sector driven by the looming economic crisis.
“We want to know how we can help the community be ready for a new, and little bit tougher stage. This stage requires individuals to develop new skills to remain competitive on the job market and a new mentality.
“On top of this, people, particularly those who have survived trauma, need to be able to maintain their wellbeing. Wellbeing is so important, because if you lose your inner peace, your world and work will attack you, and this can trigger their PTSD from within,” Bashar said.
Driving these projects is Bashar’s passion for supporting people from refugee backgrounds to harness their skills and achieve their full potential.
“People from a refugee backgrounds who have managed to live through war zones and the trauma that comes with it are survivors. They have already taken the step to be engaged with life, so we [the wider community] just have to activate their inner powers and let them believe they can do anything,” said Bashar.
Learn more about another of Bashar’s projects, The Peacemakers Ensemble here.