SydWest Multicultural Services celebrated Refugee Week at a special event on Thursday 23rd June at Blacktown Workers Club.
This special annual event saw former refugees sharing their stories of the challenges of fleeing homelands and resettling in Australia.
Guest speakers on the day included:
• Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward, President of Refugee Council of Australia
• Ibrahim Bangura
• Simon Shahin, Ambassador with Refugee Council of Australia
The program also featured a wonderful selection of cultural performances, featuring music, dance and song by performers, all of refugee backgrounds, who helped share the beauty of their cultures.
This Refugee Week, SydWest has invited the community to hear the stories of everyday people who found themselves fleeing for their lives. The trauma, scars, and heartbreak are often hidden as they resettle into a new country and focus on immediate needs.
Here is the story of one of the refugee Damber Dhungyel from the Bhutanese Community:
Born in a small landlocked country called Bhutan, I spent my childhood time in my hometown until one day, in 1992 Nepali speaking Bhutanese were forcefully evicted out of the country due to ethnic cleansing by the Bhutanese government.
With my family, we spent almost 15 years in a refugee camp in Nepal. Life was hard, dreams were within the fence, opportunities were far beyond the horizon. Parents were helpless and depressed. Life was miserable in the camp, there are no words to describe it.
It was in early 2008, the process for third country settlement of Bhutanese refugees started and our family took no chance to delay and applied for Australia. Thankfully, our whole family was accepted. We arrived here on 6th November, 2008 – I still remember it so clearly.
I need to admit the fact that our transition to settle her in Australia went smoothly, and we were supported by various organisations like ACL, MTC Blacktown, SSI, STARTTS and SydWest Multicultural Services. They were my building blocks of my new life in Australia.
Soon we became the member of our own association (Association of Bhutanese in Australia-Sydney- ABA) and started getting necessary help, guidance and advices from senior members of the community. They have played a vital role to pave my road of success in Australia.
I was dependent with Centrelink for less than 6 months. I started working with ACL as a causal refugee case worker and enrolled in university for aBachelor of Nursing. Meantime, I started getting involved in my own community doing volunteer work. I spent my days attending seminars organised by service providers, mentoring other youths and helping newly arrived community members.
Gradually, life-dreams started appearing behind the horizons and near fruition. After graduating university, I obtained my first full time permanent role in Western Sydney Local Health district as a critical care and emergency nurse.
Not long after, I bought my first home in Blacktown – my own – our own – after decades of living a life of struggles. All this would have been impossible without the strong support from my wife Reeta.
Now we live at Bungaree with two little boys and my parents together. Life is beautiful. All these success wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support from service providers like SydWest. Importantly, thank you to the Australian government and its people for your humanitarian aid to refugees like me.
Through the power of storytelling and knowing they’re not alone in their lived experiences as refugees, we hope to provide a platform for connection, engagement, and healing,” said Elfa Moraitakis, CEO of SydWest Multicultural Services.