SSI News Blog

What does it take to forge a new life far from home?

That’s a key question raised by Constance on the Edge, a film SSI was thrilled to preview recently.

Violet harmony 550 web

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis.

The film is an honest portrayal of one refugee family’s resettlement story in Australia, with Constance Okot, mother of six, confronting her painful past in war-torn Sudan, risking everything in Australia so her family can thrive.

Constance said: ‘In Africa I was fighting for survival; in the refugee camp I was fighting for human rights; and here in Australia, I'm fighting for belonging.”

SSI’s preview screening was attended by 60 guests and colleagues from migrant resource centres, multicultural and diversity services, community councils, local police and support services.

A Q&A session following the screening — moderated by Impact Producer Allison Henry and including the director, Belinda Mason, CEO of Northern Settlement Services, Lulu Tantos, SSI’s Government & Member Relations Manager, Esta Paschalidis-Chilas, and Mukhllad Alkoraghooli (a former refugee now working with SSI) — was passionate and thought provoking.

I hope as many people as possible get to see this wonderful film to raise awareness of the experiences of refugees, particularly women who are marginalised, to increase leadership and participation opportunities for refugees. It is particularly relevant for those living in regional areas, and to bolster support for refugees suffering from trauma.

If you haven’t used up your box of tissues watching Constance on the Edge, another challenging film I encourage you to see is The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe.

This documentary — described as a harrowing, life-affirming and an overwhelming emotional experience — follows the story of four charismatic and inspirational African women, now living in Australia, who, with the help of an acclaimed theatre director, turned their stories of survival into “a joyous theatre of humanity” that has filled venues from western Sydney, to the city, and internationally.

It, too, offers a message of hope and support for women and children who have suffered around the world, whether in the context of war or domestic situations.

The difficulties of finding a new home were also on my mind last month, when I had the pleasure of attending a meeting with the SSI Multicultural Foster Care team in Bankstown, where managers and staff spoke about the program’s growth since its inception almost four years ago.

Operations Manager, Out-of-Home Care, Ghassan Noujaim, said since January 2013 the team had cared for 160 children, who found a safe and stable home thanks to SSI.

After listening to the speakers and others present that day, I think it is very important to highlight how SSI case workers go above and beyond their job description to provide a high-quality service because they believe in what they do.

Their positive attitude and effort, added to the fact that many of the staff in the Multicultural Foster Care team can provide bilingual and bicultural support, results in further improvements to the quality of the service we provide and that ultimately benefits the foster children they are supporting.

Looking ahead — SSI’s AGM on November 22 will be an opportunity to celebrate recent successes and engage members, stakeholders and supporters with plans for the future. Details will be available closer to the date.

Success stories

“Humanity and freedom” celebrated on Australia Day

Behrooz Gouniai and his family. at Circular Quay.This Australia Day Behrooz Gouniai and his family will be at the beach, like millions of others, celebrating what being Aussie means to them. Behrooz, 64, came to Australia as a refugee more than 30 years ago after being pushed out of Iran first, and then India.

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