Harmony Day, this Friday, March 21, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity and coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. To mark the occasion, Settlement Services International Case Manager Nedhal Amir tells her story of arrival in Australia.
Nedhal Amir came to Australia from Iraq with her husband and four children in 2005, after applying for a humanitarian entrance visa.
They fled Iraq “because of the religious discrimination,” she said. “My children, they were suffering persecution in school because of religion, because I am from the Mandaean community.”
Although Nedhal spoke English already, she said adjusting to Australian life was still difficult. “The lifestyle, the rules – all of it – it was a big challenge for us,” she said.
But Nedhal and her family were lucky to have extended family in Australia, who helped them adjust and find accommodation and education. Two of her cousins are doctors in Australia, she said, and both have played important roles for the family. But Nedhal said it was education that played the crucial role in helping her, and her family, integrate.
“First, when we arrived we took English classes, and later other different courses in TAFE,” she said. “My children also went to TAFE to study courses suitable for them. I did a diploma in community service and then volunteer work for one year. I did casual work for a Migrant Resource Centre and now I am a Case Manager, with Settlement Services International, for people who, like us, like to change their lives too.
“All my experience, all my suffering in (refugee) camps, all my skills go to my clients, to helping people.”
Nedhal established the Mandaean Women`s Union in Australia in 2006 to help the newly-arrived women re-settle with support in the forms of information sessions and outreach courses from TAFE. She has also worked as a reporter at the AL-IRAQI Arabic-language newspaper since 2005 and ALAHAD newspaper for the Mandaean community since 2006.
The capacity to transform her own life and now help others is one reason Nedhal considers herself a proud Australian. “This is my country now,” she said. “It provides safety and a good life for me and my kids.”