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08 Nov 2017


“SSI has helped us to love Australia”

Ms Terzabian’s long-term aim for life in Australia is to work as a case manager, helping other refugees through the early days of settlement. Eighteen months after arriving in Australia, she’s checked off the first step — studying a Certificate IV in Community Services — and is now on to the second: volunteering one day a week with SSI to build up her experience supporting refugees.

“Refugees need to have patience. This is a new life to us, a new culture, a different language – everything is different. We have to be patient because if you’re not, you can’t reach your goals. You have to take everything step by step,” she said.

In her native Syria, Ms Terzabian was a beauty therapist. When she came to Australia in 2016, she initially acquired a certificate that would allow her to resume the trade here, but soon realised her passion lay elsewhere.

“I speak three languages now: English, Arabic, Armenian. I would like to be a case manager to help refugees. I understand what they’ve been through when they arrived here. It was like me — everything changed in my new life,” she said.

Ms Terzabian is originally from Aleppo. Prior to coming to Australia, she lived in Lebanon for four years with her husband, Jacob, and her sons Chris, 15, and Sasoun, 11.

“Living in Lebanon was difficult for our kids. They would ask me, ‘When are we going back to our country?’ I’d have to say, ‘It’s a war — we can’t go back’. Even up until now, they dream of their bedrooms and their things. We have been away from our country for six years and they still remember everything. But they’re here and they’re safe,” she said.

SSI has supported the family throughout their settlement journey, starting right at the beginning when staff greeted the family at the airport and took them to the house they lived in for the first few weeks in Australia.

“We were very happy. Our kids thought the house was like a castle. They were saying, ‘We love Australia. Mum, look at these roads, look at this. I was so happy for them,” Ms Terzabian said.

“They’d left their friends, their school, their clubs, their soccer team. But when we stayed in that house, they built relationships with the neighbours and played soccer together. They didn’t understand each other because they spoke different languages, but through body language and signalling, they built their first relationships in Australia.”

Both boys are enjoying school and making friends — “They talk like Aussies!” said Ms Terzabian.

“SSI has helped us to love Australia. We are in a hard position, but that gets better. Every day, we remember our country, and what we used to do. But when we see the kids and how happy they are in this country, it’s good, and the happiness and sadness is mixed together,” she said.

Ms Terzabian said she was thankful for organisations like SSI that support refugees to start their new lives in Australia.

Learn more about SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Program

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