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.
Muhammad Sadiq cooking for people seeking asylum at Community Kitchen.
In Pakistan, I worked in community services, and I aspired to similar success in my new country. Above all, I wanted to give back to the community and to help others who have been touched by war and forced to flee their homes.
But I soon learned that life in Australia was not without its own challenges.
Life here was hard at first. I spent months, and then years, applying for roles that would help me return to my former field and allow me to help others like I had done in my home country.
In the meantime, I embraced the learning opportunities Australia had to offer, initially undertaking classes through TAFE, then a certificate, and eventually a Diploma in Community Services.
My breakthrough came when, as part of my qualification, I began a placement with not-for-profit organisation, Settlement Services International, helping to support newly arrived refugees and people seeking asylum. I took clients to essential appointments to support them with their financial, housing and health needs. I also organised catering for workshops and interpreted for clients, as I speak seven languages fluently.
The work was rewarding and enabled me to apply both my old and new skills in a practical setting.
Working for SSI with people who were newly arrived in Australia, and sometimes distressed, also helped to heal some of the wounds from my own separation from my native land.
In short, I would say it was the best period of my life.
When my placement ended, I stayed on with SSI as a volunteer, while also taking up other opportunities to help refugees and new migrants.
Both my volunteer work and continued studies helped me to maintain a positive attitude and to sustain the belief that success would come to me as long as I kept fighting for it.
I saw the fruits of my labour on August 27, 2012 – the day I took up employment with SSI as a case manager and fulfilled my ambition to return to my former profession.
I now help other refugees to find their feet in a new country and overcome their own challenges to achieve their personal goals. It’s been the most rewarding role of my professional life.