Coming to Australia in search of safety means leaving behind friends, family and everything you know. For people like social worker Sarah, it also means starting again after years of studying at university and building up professional experience in her field.
Originally from Iran, Sarah came to Australia in 2013 with her husband, Daniel, and two young children. On arrival, the family was assisted by SSI’s Status Resolution Support Services program, which provides support to people who are living in Australia on temporary visas while their status as a refugee is assessed.
“We were new to Australia, our English was limited and it was very hard to find a job. But my SSI case manager was amazing. She would say to me, ‘you’re a social worker. You’re educated. You’re experienced. You can find a job’,” Sarah said.
“I didn’t think I could because my English wasn’t good and I didn’t know how to look for work here. But she believed in me and encouraged me. She helped me to create a CV and taught me how to apply for a job. Little by little, I got more confident.”
When the family first arrived in Australia, Sarah did not have work rights or access to English classes, so would spend much of her time taking her young daughter to playgroups.
“Each day, I took my daughter to a playgroup in a different suburb. My daughter was very shy and her English was limited, but together, we joined in with the other parents and children and started learning more English and other skills,” she said.
“It was the first time I’d been to a playgroup because we don’t have them in Iran. We really enjoyed being with the other parents and children engaged together in play, drawing and other activities. It’s really useful for the children, and I was interested in that. After one year of doing that, I started volunteering at Granville Multicultural Community Centre playgroup.”
Sarah’s case manager also introduced her to SSI’s Playtime — a multicultural playgroup where families with young children can meet other families and make contact with community organisations. An initiative of SSI’s Community Engagement program, Playtime is, in a number of locations, run in partnership with Playgroup NSW. Playtime is provided by Playgroup NSW with funds from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation to develop a playgroup program suitable for refugee families.
After learning of Sarah’s extensive experience as a social worker, Playgroup NSW employed her to facilitate two of the Playtime groups.
“Now that I’ve had some work experience, I feel more confident about my ability to get a full-time job and return to social work. Before I thought I could never find a job in Australia or learn to talk English. It was hard for me. But now things have improved. I’m part of this community,” Sarah said.
Three days a week, Sarah also heads to TAFE where she is undertaking an English course that will give her the skills to extend her education.
“I enjoy studying. I want to improve my English and then apply for university to do a Master’s in social work to update my education and learn more about my field,” she said.