SSI’s Welcome2Sydney program enabled two refugee families to enjoy an iconic Australian experience last month: the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Every Easter, the country and city join together at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, for 12 days of agricultural competitions, animal experiences, live entertainment, carnival fun, shopping and much more.
Not only did the 10 new arrivals get a chance to attend the largest annual ticketed event in Australia with literally hundreds of events on offer, they also became part of a celebration of Australian culture, from its rural traditions to its modern-day lifestyles — providing unique experiences for everyone.
The refugee families said they had a great time.
“The show was amazing,” one parent said. “The children really enjoyed seeing the animals and all that the show has to see.”
"It was marvellous,” said another. “It was also lovely for the kids. It was such a great combination of everything."
A highlight for one participant was meeting a police officer and sitting in the police car for a selfie.
"We also enjoyed playing the games to try to win the huge stuffed penguin,” she said. “We didn't win it in the end, which was disappointing, but we had a lot of fun and laughs trying.
"It was amazing to see how much the people cared for the animals. We saw them washing them and feeding them — they were so kind and caring.”
One participant thought the displays were very beautiful. “We didn't know all of the different types of food available here. It was so interesting to see so many different aspects of Australia in one place."
Typical of Welcome2Sydney activities, the show experience helped participants feel more confident to try new things and see new places.
One family was more experienced than the other and travelled out of their way to assist the new arrivals in getting to the show.
They spoke of how much they could relate to what it was like to be new to Australia.
"I really felt for them. I remember the first few weeks and all of the information that you have to take in.
"On the way we were able to talk and get to know one another.”
That assistance and help with language translation was much appreciated by the new arrivals.
"They really helped us to figure out how to get there with public transport."
The families said that meeting new people made them feel welcome and more comfortable living in Australia.
Volunteer ambassador, Matthew said it was a great day out. “I had not been in a while but it was nice to walk around with the families and show them the different aspects of the show," he said.
"One of the boys in our group unexpectedly bumped into a mate from school, which was really nice to see, and funny because although I have lived in Sydney for 50 years I didn't see anyone I knew.”
There were also words of thanks for Matthew and his partner.
"They were amazing; we really loved their hospitality. They were really fun to be with for the day. We are looking forward to meeting them again."
Welcome2Sydney aims to encourage newcomers to explore and develop a sense of belonging in their new home. Hosted by volunteer ambassadors, welcome activities include social, cultural and recreational excursions that match individual interests.
A member of the family that had previous experience with Welcome2Sydney said, "My closest circle of friends, ‘my besties’, are all people I met through Welcome2Sydney."
Welcome2Sydney Project Officer Paula Ben David said SSI was grateful to the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW for the charity tickets that enabled the families to attend the Royal Easter Show.