11 Nov 2020


Syrian refugee from LGBTIQ community overcomes social adversity and finds meaning working for the elderly

In Syria, Mr Smith studied engineering and worked at a travel agency. While in limbo in Lebanon he worked as a supervisor for eight unisex clothing stores.

Arriving in Australia, Mr Smith was met by the Settlement Services International (SSI) team who took him to his temporary accommodation and assisted him in settling into his new home.

The Australian Government’s Humanitarian Settlement Program delivered by SSI has ambitiously sought to find Mr Smith education and employment opportunities since his arrival.

SSI provided him with useful information and guidance about the workforce, and he independently furthered his studies and secured work.

Since making Australia his home, he has harnessed his bilingual skills through supporting the elderly community.

“I actually have this job because I speak Arabic and English. People in aged care who are from the Middle East can often only speak Arabic, so they need help,” he said.

Mr Smith completed a Certificate 3 in Community Service at TAFE and then job-hunted online, where he found a position as an aged care worker.

With a history of assisting the elderly, his aged care patients often describe him as being “their son”. Back in Syria, he would regularly be called on to help his grandparents, as he was one of the only young males in his family fit to help.

Mr Smith has close interactions with aged care patients, as his job is to help them shop, bathe, translate and speak with them when they need human connection.

He said that the people at the facility were friendly and he had a good relationship with them.

“Most of the time, they will ask for me when I’m not there. They will ask, ‘Why hasn’t JS come? We need JS.’”

Mr Smith is determined to further his career and has aspirations to continue his studies.

“Next year, I want to do my Certificate 4 at TAFE for aged care and disability. I also want to get a diploma and one day go to university to study community services,” he said.

While Mr Smith has flourished in his work, he has had to overcome social adversity due to his sexuality.

“I have had challenges with my community. They didn’t accept my sexuality,” he said. “The best community I have found is the Australian community.”

Mr Smith also has a close relationship with his family, who have accepted his sexuality.

His mother likes his partner of four years, who is still in Lebanon waiting to have his humanitarian visa granted.

“The Australian community wanted my help because I can speak two languages,” he said.

“I love to help people wherever they are.”


* Name changed to protect anonymity


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