1. What is your name?
2. How are you enjoying your new country?
I really like Australia and have enjoyed my time here since I arrived in December 2013 from Malaysia. I feel free here and in control of my own fate. No one questions me or my beliefs, no one follows me, I feel more free and relaxed and comfortable to be able to practice my own faith with safety.
3. Where have you travelled from and how did you make your way here?
I travelled from Malaysia with my youngest daughter by airplane. It was very difficult to leave my eldest daughter for approximately 9 months as she had to finish her education back home. Thankfully, my eldest daughter has since joined us.
4. Tell us a bit about the process once you arrived in Australia. How did you cope with the new language and culture? Where did you stay etc?
When I first arrived, I stayed with the local pastor’s friend. It was quite difficult as I did not have any friends or family here and I was constantly worried and concerned about my eldest daughter and her safety back home.
It was also a confusing and difficult time for me in terms of planning for my future, and what it might hold here. I did not yet have a support network and was constantly searching online to find general assistance and work so that I could provide for my family. It was difficult to find work in the beginning as shops, cafes and other businesses often want experience within Australia and within a specific industry.
Thankfully, I approached the Red Cross and arranged an appointment with them. They began to assist me and got me in contact with the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown. Here, I was put onto a program where I was taught helpful things about Australian culture, including how to greet and converse with people and other skills like how to write a resume to find employment. Being referred to the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown was great, I met some nice people and this made me feel more at home.
5. How did you hear about the services AFFMA provide?
I was chatting to a lady at my local church. It turns out this lady was Karyn Clarke [who volunteers her time to assist with the technical side of AFFMA, including the computer systems and website and is currently the Director of Communications]. Karyn and I started speaking, she gave me Joël’s number [AFFMA CEO Joël Gédéon] and we got talking from there.
6. Which Migration Agent took your case?
When I initially met with Joël and summarised my case, it was not taken up initially as it was seen as not a guaranteed success [AFFMA have a 100% success rate to date, and due to the limited resources at its disposal, can only take on cases with very high prospects of success]. I went ahead with my immigration interview which I did not initially pass, and then to the Tribunal [now the Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal]. I did not completely understand the letter I received from the Tribunal. I reconnected with Joël and he helped me from there until the end of the process.
7. Tell us about your experiences with AFFMA.
Joël and AFFMA really helped me so much. Joël said he would be there helping me all the way until I received citizenship. Joël never failed me, and was always there to help me from A to Z following my unrepresented appearance at the Tribunal. This help was particularly helpful when I was seriously ill in hospital and unable to walk for almost three months. Joël recognised how much assistance was required and AFFMA did everything they could to help.
8. Would you recommend AFFMA to other people seeking asylum in Australia?
Yes, I plan to recommend it to fellow asylum seekers I have met since my arrival and also hope to link the services AFFMA provides to other services I received since I arrived.
9. How did you decide that you wanted to come to Australia?
I was physically and mentally abused by my former husband. My religious beliefs (Christian) were different from his (Muslim) and this led to my children and me being persecuted for our religious beliefs. I had to make a quick decision to leave and understood Australia to be a safe and welcoming place.
10. What did you know about Australia before you arrived?
I did not know too much about Australia. I knew it had a good education system and that I wanted to go somewhere closer to Malaysia (the UK and Canada being further away). As I said it was a quick decision, I needed to bring my youngest child with me due to potential custody dispute. It has been very difficult for us, we have not been able to return home for funerals of my close family members.
11. Outline some of the positive and negative experiences that you have experienced since arriving here.
One major positive experience was hearing about Parliament Cafe in Newtown (through the Asylum Seekers Centre) run by Ravi Prasad. This cafe provides asylum seekers with on the job hospitality training to assist with obtaining a full time job.
Another positive I noticed was how much volunteering happens within the Australian community and this encouraged me to volunteer myself to give back to the community that has such good spirit. I volunteered at Roseville Vinnies, and from there I managed to obtain full time employment at a different Vinnies in the Eastern Suburbs. I am really enjoying my new job and am grateful for the experience I obtained from Parliament Cafe.
I have encountered some negative experiences, primarily due to racism, such as an event on a train where people moved seats because of my appearance. This is saddening and disappointing, but the majority of my experiences here have been positive.
12. What are your plans going forward as an Australian resident? What does the future hold for you here?
My plans are to continue with my job at Vinnies but also to continue to give back to the local community. I have been involved in a project at Parliament Cafe whereby a portion of the catering profits from the business (the catering is mostly done by refugees/asylum seekers) goes towards preparing volunteer multicultural dishes for homeless shelters in the city. This idea was supported by Ravi Prasad and helps me to continue to participate in the volunteer spirit in Australia. This project can help to show that refugees and asylum seekers can contribute to help the less fortunate people in Australian society.
13. On behalf of the AFFMA readers and everyone at the AFFMA team we would like to warmly welcome you to Australia and wish you all the best in the future.
I’d like to thank Joël and AFFMA. You’re doing amazing work and I will continue to promote AFFMA to people in circumstances that can benefit from the services AFFMA provide.
Interview questions by James Gounis, LLB(Hons), BCom(Newcastle), DipLegPrac(College of Law)
*Name changed for privacy reasons