When Settlement Services International Gender Advocate & Policy Influencer Najeeba Wazefadost received floods of phone calls from Hazara community members and local businesses expressing their desire to fundraise for bushfire relief, she was left incredulous.
Victorian Hazara Community presenting a cheque to the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund.
Yet being a former refugee and Hazara woman herself, Ms Wazefadost understood why the community had such fervour to step up and show their support.
“The Hazara community Australia-wide, from Victoria to Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide, have been putting a lot of effort into ensuring that they’re active within this crisis,” Ms Wazefadost said.
Those efforts, which have ranged from cash donations to RFS volunteering, began mostly through word of mouth.
“We tried to contact our own family and friends and, coincidentally, people were already contacting one another with the same calls about how they could support the bushfire relief.”
Ms Wazefadost said that she was struck by how affected the Hazara children had been by the ramifications of the bushfires.
For those children, meeting Australian animals during their arrival was key to feeling connected to their new home and hearing of the extensive animal casualties was a painful experience.
“It was going to Taronga Zoo and seeing all the animals, the koalas and kangaroos, which deeply helped them with resettlement,” she said.
Ms Wazefadost believes that the Hazaras’ desire to help stems from their gratitude for the safety and opportunity their new home has provided them.
“They feel they’re a part of this community and they truly want Australia to know that in anything that happens in this country, they’re going to be part of it,” she said.
“Once upon a time as a refugee they were welcomed in this country; they were supported, so this was the opportunity to give back.”
Ms Wazefadost said that climate change and its linked natural disasters were related to many humanitarian and refugee crises, which might also be why the fundraising effort resonated with so many Hazaras.
“People who could donate money have been donating money, and we’ve been able to raise over $100,000 overall Australia-wide,” she said.
Ms Wazefadost and many other women from community organisation Hazara Women of Australia have applied to volunteer for the RFS, while many in-language Hazara Facebook pages continue to support the bushfire relief effort.
“We call Australia our home and we want our Australian family, friends and neighbours to know that during this hard and critical time they’re not alone.”