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23 Apr 2024


Meet our expert ‘welcomers’ greeting and supporting Australia’s newcomers

Ahlam, Ana, and Emad all arrived in Australia as refugees and today, they are giving back by supporting newcomers settle in Australia as part of SSI’s Immediate Services team.

We caught up with them at the Sydney Airport arrivals hall to hear more about their first steps on Australian soil and what those moments taught them to better support others.



Emad’s never-ending excitement to be the first to welcome newcomers down under

Emad recalls his first moments in the arrivals hall he sits today as deeply emotional.

“This was the moment when someone waited for me and, upon my arrival, said, ‘Okay, welcome to Australia. A new life awaits you here.’ Immediately, I forgot everything I left behind in my country. All the suffering turned to excitement,” Emad reflected on his experiences from 15 years ago.

Today, Emad is part of a tight-knit team of staff from refugee backgrounds and other SSI staff who make the SSI Immediate Services team, who have the responsibility and privilege to be the first people Australia’s newcomers meet and build connections with when they first land in their new home.

“When our clients arrive at the airport, usually there are family and friends waiting so often it feels like a party. Because some families are waiting for five to eight to 10 years for approval for a loved one to come to Australia,” Emad said.

“We get very excited when we see our clients happy and getting hugs from their relatives. It’s especially moving when we welcome families and kids.”


Ahlam: From newcomer to regular at Sydney Airport arrivals

Ahlam: From newcomer to regular at Sydney Airport arrivals

Ahlam came to Australia as a refugee 16 years ago. When she first arrived, she didn’t speak English and had no money.

“I was so scared to come out of the airport, wondering who will be out there waiting for me. I had no idea what was going to happen next. When I came out, the SSI staff made me feel good, safe and so happy,” she recalled.

Since that day, Ahlam has become part of the SSI team and one of the ‘locals’ of Sydney Airport – she comes to greet and welcome newcomers so often, she is well-known and liked by staff in the arrivals hall.

“I think about my own experience when I landed at the airport; when I see them searching for someone who can help give them a home. I know what a good feeling it is to see someone waiting, holding your name on a sign. It is a feeling you can’t describe,” Ahlam reflected.

“Because I was a refugee myself, I don’t mind as long as I’m helping people because I know how they feel. Because they’ve suffered to come here; they’ve come from such a long way and they don’t know anyone. So to be here for them, I can see in their eyes how much it means.”


Ana’s aim to give newcomers a smooth arrival

Ana’s aim to give newcomers a smooth arrival

Anastasiia, or Ana for short, arrived as a refugee from Ukraine two years ago. At first, she didn’t interact with SSI but soon connected with the team to get assistance with renting an apartment, furniture and everything else she needed for the household.

“My case manager was always checking up on me how I’m going and what’s happening. And the moment I was ready to look for a job, she referred me to SSI to become a Multicultural Support Officer,” she said.

This is how Ana ultimately landed a full-time permanent position in SSI’s Immediate Services team, whose responsibility it is to meet new arrivals at the airport, get them set up for life in Australia, and provide them with suitable temporary accommodation.

“My role is the ‘backstage’ person behind the curtains, providing information to our Multicultural Support Officers around what time they should be at the airport, who we’re meeting, how big the family is, what languages they speak and so forth.”


This job is very rewarding because I’m helping people to reduce the stress that I went through when I first came to Australia.”


Almost all refugees and asylum seekers who come to our shores have survived personal trauma and social upheaval. SSI’s Humanitarian Services Program (HSP) aims to provide them with the structured support they need to adjust to life in Australia and successfully settle into our communities. SSI delivers HSP services on behalf of the Federal government in several locations across NSW.

Our case workers work closely with newcomers, connecting them with the skills, support and resources they need to find their feet and develop into independent members of society.

In the last year, HSP’s diverse team supported over 3,000 newcomers feel welcome and secure in their new home country.

Watch what our clients, Nargis and Cecilia, had to say about the support they received on the first days in Australia and meet some of our expert ‘welcomers’ supporting newcomers:

Learn more

Learn more about HSP Immediate Services Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) here:

Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP)

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