SSI News Blog

"Have you heard of boat people? I'm like them"

Sydney bank teller, and asylum seeker, Asif Haideri.

Customers of Sydney bank teller Asif Haideri come and go, never suspecting he is much different to them. Those who he strikes a conversation with are shocked, he said, to learn he is ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan and was once kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban.

“I’m a bank teller and people talk to me every day,” Asif said. “When I say I am from Afghanistan and I came to Australia two years ago, they are shocked. They say, ‘really, I thought you were born here’. I say, no, have you heard of boat people? I am like them. They are shocked.”

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Young refugees share their stories

The lives and settlement experiences of young refugees will be explored at the fourth and final Speakers’ Series event for 2014 hosted by Settlement Services International (SSI).

Titled The strength of youth: young people and their refugee experiences, the event on Tuesday, November 11, will begin with three young people from refugee backgrounds sharing their stories.

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Seeking asylum and playing cricket

Sport is renowned for bringing people from all over the world together, and now cricket has united two seemingly disparate groups of men. Refugees and people seeking asylum have joined members of Knox Grammar School’s ‘Old Boys’ association to hone their bat and ball skills together in the lead up to cricket season.  

The weekly pre-season cricket clinics at Auburn District Cricket Club on Saturdays have resulted in a mutually beneficial partnership for the 18 or so refugees and asylum seekers, who are clients of SSI, and members of the Old Knox Grammarians’ Association.

The new arrivals ­– mainly from cricket-loving nations Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but also from Burma and Afghanistan – have seen significant improvements in their cricket skills, and have been given an opportunity to connect with Australian-born community members. 

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One person's food, is another's future

Yoga Raja has a talent for “food carving” that is finding appreciative audiences at Sydney weddings and functions.

Yoga, 32, is an artist and food – watermelons, carrots and white radish – is his medium. From a watermelon he can carve a life-like human portrait, and from carrots and radish he sculpts bouquets of flowers that people approach to smell as if real.

Flowers crafted by Yoga Raja.
Flowers crafted by Yoga Raja.
And doves crafted from watermelon.
And doves crafted from watermelon.

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New arrivals find a "lifetime" sport

Tony Podesta believes tennis is a ‘lifetime’ sport. So who better to teach tennis to then recently arrived refugees settling into their new lives in Australia? 

A group of 8 to 12 children and adults has participated in a Tennis Australia Multicultural Tennis Program for Refugees at the Tony Podesta School of Tennis in Fairfield once a week for the past 10 weeks. 


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Foster carers help maintain cultural connections

The importance of maintaining a child’s connection to their cultural heritage, language and religion while in foster care should not be underestimated.

During NSW Foster Care week, September 14-21, Manager of Multicultural Foster Care Service (MFCS) Mr Ghassan Noujaim, hopes to highlight the important work of the services’ foster carers in helping maintain cultural connections.

“Our foster carers are incredible in their dedication to and support of keeping cultural links for their foster children,” said Mr Noujaim.

Foster children

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Champion team united on the soccer field


Most of them had never played soccer on grass fields with marked lines before, but in their first season in Australia this special team proved themselves champions. After a thrilling 2-1 win, the Newington Gunners Soccer Club’s team of refugees and asylum seekers won its Grand Final on Saturday, September 13.

The players had come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Nepal and Tajikistan to enjoy safer, better lives in Australia. Many of them are supported by not-for-profit organisation Settlement Services International’s (SSI) humanitarian settlement programs. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said watching them play this season had been inspiring.

Newington Gunners

“Knowing just a little about the circumstances these individuals have come from has made watching them enjoy themselves on the soccer field this year an inspiring experience,” Ms Roumeliotis said. “It has been heartwarming to see them put traumatic life experiences in the background while they enjoy the sport they love and make new friends in the community, just like many other Australians enjoy doing. They are another inspiring example of how people who come to Australia as refugees or to apply for refugee status as asylum seekers can, and want, to participate in our communities.

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Success stories

Muhammad Sadiq: How I came to call Australia home

Muhammad Sadiq cooking for people seeking asylum at Community Kitchen.I came to Australia as a refugee in 2009, hoping to find a peaceful place to build a home for my family. Increasing persecution of the Hazara community from which my family and I come meant that our native land, Pakistan, was no longer the safe haven it once had been.

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