Few people can imagine the tumultuous mix of emotions refugees experience on arrival in their new country. Adam Bujairami, however, has no need to imagine, having been a refugee himself.
Mr Bujairami is one of the first people newly arrived refugees meet in Australia.
“When I arrived, it was amazing – looking around, seeing all the nice buildings. Especially when the flight landed, I saw the water, it was daytime, and it was a terrific feeling,” he said. “I will never forget the face of the guy who picked me up from the airport.”
Life has come full circle for Mr Bujairami, who now heads the team at Settlement Services International (SSI) that welcomes refugees at the airport and introduces them to their new home.
“When I first started as HSS Reception Team Leader, it was an amazing feeling knowing people would remember my face for a long, long time – for as long as they are in Australia – because I’ve been here ten years now and I remember the guy’s face who met me," he said.
“I remember the way he welcomed me – how polite and lovely he was, how he made me feel welcome – and I feel I do this for new arrivals now too."
After greeting refugees at the airport, Mr Bujairami and his team help them to settle into short-term accommodation and to access essential services including Centrelink, Medicare and health and banking services.
“It’s an interesting job for me. I really love it, especially when you see the smile on someone’s face at the airport,” he said. “They’re excited; they’re over the moon to arrive here. It’s really exciting for me when I wake up in the morning and go to the airport and pick them up. I love what I do.”
The new arrivals receive support from the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) program in the form of orientation, case management, and employment information and advice.
In order to help them get off to the best start in Australia, Mr Bujairami draws on both his professional expertise and lived experience.
“I was born in Syria but my original nationality is Palestinian," he said. "It’s a complicated arrangement, but because Syria doesn’t give Palestinians citizenship, we were stateless.
“Coming from a refugee background I can relate to the experiences of newly arrived refugees. I understand what it means to be a refugee, what they need, and what it feels like to adjust to life in a new country.”
His experience as a refugee has instilled in Mr Bujairami a strong sense of social justice, fairness and equality.
“I always wanted to work in this area because I needed things back home and I couldn’t get them, but I thought if I was a worker I could give that help to other children who are like I was, growing up in a refugee camp in Syria,” he said.
“As a refugee, I always wanted to work in organisations assisting refugees. SSI gave me that opportunity with this job.
“We really support our clients, which makes you feel proud that you’re a part of this organisation that loves supporting refugees and asylum seekers.”
Mr Bujairami's ultimate goal is to assist refugees on a global scale in a major international body such as the United Nations.
“I know how my people have been repressed and I want to be able to assist them,” he said. “I want to assist refugees to make things fair for them. I’ve always wanted to do that and hopefully I will get there one day.”