One hundred and thirty-four newcomers and five ambassadors have already participated in Welcome2Sydney activities designed to make refugees and asylum seekers feel welcome and more connected to their new home.
Refugee families have visited many famous Sydney sites thanks to Welcome2Sydney.
Welcome2Sydney is a new project co-designed by the City of Sydney and Settlement Services International, aiming to connect ambassadors from the City of Sydney with newly arrived refugee members of our community.
Throughout February and March connections occurred through social, cultural and recreational activities, including visits to parks, Circular Quay, the Royal Botanic Garden, Darling Harbour, Google and the National Maritime Museum.
On February 16, ambassadors and refugee families visited Darling Harbour, Chinatown and Circular Quay to celebrate the biggest Lunar New Year festivities outside Asia and to share in those celebrations with one of Australia's largest migrant communities.
Three families from Syria were welcomed by two ambassadors: Katie and Neil. It was a unique opportunity for the families to share experiences and celebrate the Year of the Dog, discover their Chinese zodiac signs, play with other children and see the lunar lanterns lighting up the harbour.
The families were impressed by the beauty and liveliness of Sydney, which they said felt like home. One family member said how comfortable and safe she felt in the city.
The Welcome2Sydney ambassadors in turn enjoyed the enthusiasm of the families, one saying that he “loved seeing the joy in the participants’ faces as they saw and experienced new aspects of the city I love”.
Other activities were organised in Victoria Park on the occasion of the Yabun Festival on Australia Day and on Fair Day during Mardi Gras.
They were special experiences for participants as they were introduced to two important communities in the City of Sydney: Aboriginal and LGBTQI. Families enjoyed mixing with cultures very different from their own, meeting new people, and watching different ways of celebrating.
Another Welcome2Sydney ambassador and three families had religious and cultural conversations with an Aboriginal woman that helped the participants become familiar with the experiences of Indigenous people and improved the local community’s understanding of refugees.
After the activity, one participant said she was happy to do something different, see the city and not be thinking about the troubles she had experienced.
A group of 10 young refugees visited Google and the National Maritime Museum on February 27. It was an opportunity for participants and ambassadors to meet each other, explore the venues, share food and talk with peer engineers and designers.
The participants were engaged in conversations about software, working at Google and their own careers.
They also met with Welcome2Sydney ambassador Lewis, who walked them through the Maritime museum and shared his outstanding knowledge of Australia’s history, migration and Sydney.
On Harmony Day, two families had the opportunity to attend a football match between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar at Allianz Stadium in Moore Park. They shared their passion for sports with Welcome2Sydney ambassador Neil, enjoyed one of Australia’s popular sports and explored the park and Surry Hills area on their way back.
Five families took part in two tours and picnics in the Botanic Garden and met with Lesley, Katie and Isabella. The families shared food and information with the ambassadors while exploring spots they had never visited before and taking photos of the beautiful views.
Many participants expressed how safe and welcomed they felt in Sydney. One couple said the initiative was important because it helped newcomers improve their wellbeing and mental health after a long and difficult journey to Australia.