Life in Australia began just over two years ago for Mohsen, who came to Sydney 26 months ago as an asylum seeker from Iran. Sydney is a far cry from life in Iran but one of the most remarkable differences for Mohsen is the Australian wildlife, which has captured his curiosity ever since he arrived.
The team of SSI staff, men seeking asylum and National Parks and Wildlife staff at Mosman.
“My favourite thing about coming here every Friday for the last four months was that I could see the kookaburras close-up,” said Mohsen.
“I have learnt a lot about Australian wildlife. For example, did you know that a python snake in Australia is not dangerous?” he asked with awe. “It is big, but it’s not dangerous. We touched one here one day with the rangers, it was very cool.”
Learning about Australian wildlife is just one of the many benefits of the bush regeneration project, which was delivered to a dedicated group of volunteers who receive support through SSI’s Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program. This group of volunteers, all who are seeking asylum in Australia, helped to regenerate an area of bushland and restore a WWII fort at Middle Head, Mosman, over four months.
The program, which started as a 12-week initiative, was extended for several weeks as volunteers developed a strong partnership with staff from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services. Together, volunteers and staff took part in weeding, planting native species and repainting a fort. But notably, everyone who took part in the project developed a strong connection and shared sense of purpose over the course of the program.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services staff were so impressed with the efforts of the volunteers, that they organised a guided tour around Taronga Zoo on the last day of the program where participants saw many native Australian animals for the first time.
Following the tour, the group of volunteers were invited to a barbecue lunch where NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services staff presented them with certificates of appreciation to recognise the task they had completed.
“On behalf of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services, we would like to thank you for the big effort you put into the project,” Sydney Harbour National Park Ranger Mel Tyas said as she presented certificates to the volunteers. “The results were excellent and we are happy to say that you have been the best volunteering group we’ve had at the park.”
“You have worked hard in this land and now it belongs to you, too,” she added. “Please come back whenever you want, we hope to see you soon again.”
This program is set to start again from October 9, with a new group of SSI volunteers who will continue the bush regeneration tasks and the restoring of the fort for another seven weeks.