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13 Apr 2021


SSI supports refugee family with son on the autism spectrum

The Hamdi Hesari family arrived in Australia in April 2019.

Through the Australian Government’s Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), Service Settlement International (SSI) provided the Hamdi Hesari family with wrap-around support services in their new home.

The Hamdi Hesari family were forced to flee Iran in 2015 as they are members of the Baha’i faith, a persecuted minority group in Iran. They temporarily relocated to Turkey for three years, where they waited for their Australian visas to be approved.

Ms Hamdi Hesari said that as refugees in Turkey, they were not eligible to work and were met with significant financial problems.

“None would offer us help or support. Then suddenly, a door opened for us, and we were able to come to Australia on the humanitarian refugee visa.”

Relocating to Australia was met with enthusiasm, but the move negatively impacted Ms Hamdi Hesari’s, now 7-year-old son, Noyan Hamdi Hesari, who lives with autism and found it disruptive to his learning and social development.

“My son was three years old when we got his diagnosis of autism. It was a very hard situation because we couldn’t find therapy sessions. They were too expensive, in a different language, and the Turkish government didn’t support us,” Ms Hamdi Hesari said.

“We (my husband Farid Hamdi Hesari and I) spent a lot of time researching and doing our own work to find ways to support him. Progress in autism is very slow, and it was very hard. We put all of our energy into him, but we didn’t see good results.”

Since they arrived in Australia, HSP has provided Ms Hamdi Hesari and her son with support and advocacy with relevant service providers, including arranging appointments with GPs and specialists.

SSI assisted Ms Hamdi Hesari’s son gain access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) by referring him to another service provider. He is now enrolled in an educational program tailored for children living with autism.

“It’s really important he goes to school five days a week. Our lives have completely changed, and I’ve seen improvements in him. It’s very gradual, slow. But we can see some changes.

“Because my son was in different countries, with different languages, his progress has been slower than other children. But now, after one-and-half years in therapy and new schooling, we can see some growth.”

For the Hamdi Hesari family, being confident that their child is being educated and looked after by people equipped to support him, they have newfound freedom and flexibility in their lives.

“We are happy our son is in a school where he has a good relationship with his teacher who cares about him. It’s such a relief.

“As parents, we can now study, work and do other activities. It’s very good for our mental health.”

Ms Hamdi Hesari recently finished her Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance at Kingswood TAFE, and Mr Hamdi Hesari is now enrolled in a building constructions course.

Another extra-curricular engagement now available to Ms Hamdi Hesari has been workshops that explore employment and social life in Australia. She also attended the Callum Park Mother’s Day celebration, where she could socialise with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

The Hamdi Hesari family is continuing to improve their English and have future ambitions to secure employment that can work around their son’s needs.

“I’m really happy in Australia, and it’s a great country. The government support has helped us reach a new level of independence.

“I hope this can happen for our friends that are in Turkey at the moment so that they can restart their lives here.”

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