May 10, 2013
In anticipation of Mothers’ Day this Sunday, Settlement Services International (SSI) today celebrated the new life in Australia of a group of 50 refugees and mothers at a special lunch event held in Auburn.
The women, who came from all parts of Sydney, had the opportunity to meet and talk about their personal journeys to safety and life in a new country. SSI is a not-for-profit organisation committed to ensuring that refugees and humanitarian entrants are supported and resourced to fulfil their potential as members of the community.
Many of the mothers have Women at Risk visa* status, which protects women in vulnerable situations. Two women who escaped their countries and who are now living in Sydney talked of their personal journey to Australia and what made them leave their home countries.
CEO of Settlement Services International Violet Roumeliotis told the gathering: “Today has been a celebration and acknowledgment of the wonderful work that mothers do every day for their children and families. We hope this event makes people aware of the circumstances of refugee and asylum seeker women in our society, and as mothers, it is this love of family that has driven them to make the incredible journeys through very difficult circumstances in order to make their families safe.”
Ruby** fled to Australia from Iraq with her four children. “I came with nothing…I have now managed to find accommodation by myself, and my children are in school. God has helped me and Australia has helped me and I’m so happy.”
Tara** a young Iraqi woman in her early 20s who fled Iran, is not technically a mother but is the main carer for her two younger brothers. “I am both mother and father to my brothers - 16 and 17 years old. I give thanks that I am celebrating this day with you and I hope that my mother will be able to join us one day soon.”
Special guest speaker researcher and consultant Margaret Piper AM touched the hearts of many in the room when she made the point that refugee mothers are called on to do much more than what most of us see as coming with that role.
Ms Piper, who has over 25 years’ experience in the refugee sector, said: “You had to confront the painful realisation that home was no longer safe for you or your children. Each of you set off on a journey not knowing where or when it would end.
“Each of you joined the ranks of over 10 million other people around the world, half of them women and children, and then began the wait for what the UNHCR calls a ‘durable solution’.
“Resettlement is not the end of the journey. You have to learn to live in a new country, learn about the services and how to support your children in a country that can seem peculiar.
“But there are three things that each of you should remember: you are strong and resilient – you have to be if you are here today; each of the challenges you will face can be overcome; and finally, the journey that you are on is a journey in which you are not alone. There are services to help you during hard times, reach out to them for help. And there are members of your community, too, who are there to offer you friendship and support,” she added.
Also in attendance was the Hon. John Murphy MP, Member for Reid, and several community leaders and representatives of refugee support services.
After lunch the women were treated to some Mothers’ Day pampering including manicures and henna hand decorating.
Media Contacts: Angela Calabrese mobile: 0401 284 828
*The Women at Risk Visa is granted to women, and their dependents, who are subject to persecution or are of concern to the UNHCR, are living outside their home country without the protection of a male relative and are in danger of victimisation, harassment or serious abuse because of their gender.
**The women’s real names have been replaced