Since arriving in Australia with his wife and son less than 12 months ago, Maxeem Georges has begun studying a master’s degree in finance and started working for a large insurance company in Sydney.
He also teaches children how to play the ude – a traditional Middle Eastern instrument – free of charge, and when he can find the time, he plays soccer with his two-year-old son.
“We miss our country – our friends, our life and our family – but we are safe here. Our eyes are open in Australia when they were closed in Syria,” he said.
Mr Georges is among thousands of refugees who have arrived in NSW after the Federal Government announced in September last year that it would welcome an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq.
Settlement Services International (SSI), the largest not-for-profit humanitarian settlement organisation in Australia, has settled over 1,000 refugees and humanitarian entrants in recent months, with the number expected to increase steadily in the months ahead.
Like many new arrivals, Mr Georges is still adjusting to life in Australia, but he says the support his family received in the initial months was a vital part of his settlement journey.
“Australia reminds me of Syria, but so many things are different,” he said. “Many people have helped my family and the community has been very supportive.”
SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Support (HSS) program for newly arrived refugees and humanitarian entrants picked Mr Georges and his family up from the airport upon their arrival from Syria and took them to short-term accommodation where they lived for four weeks. The HSS program provides ongoing support while the family settles in their new home.
His family took part in a community orientation program covering topics such as how to apply for rental properties and search for schools and health care services, and they were connected with a case manager who provided essential support in the initial six months.
With the support of SSI, Mr Georges recently secured a full-time position with a reputable insurance company in Sydney’s CBD – an opportunity that has allowed him to focus on his long-term career goals.
“We are safe and happy here – we feel like we’re part of society which is something we lost in Syria,” he said.
SSI’s Manager Humanitarian Settlement Services Yamamah Agha applauded Mr Georges’s resilience and tenacity, and highlighted the importance of supporting newly arrived refugees, particularly in the early stages of settlement.
“Refugees bring a wealth of skills and talents to Australia, but it’s important they are supported to develop the knowledge and community connections they need to live independently in society,” she said.
“Settlement is not a linear process; it takes time and requires a commitment from the community. But successful resettlement delivers profound social and economic benefits to the broader community, which makes us stronger as a nation.”
Mr Georges is continuing his studies and enjoying family life after his wife gave birth to their second child, Marvin, in late May.