Austalian actor, Brian Brown spends time with childen Karmel, Stella, Miar and Sam at the activities tent during the opening of the House Of Welcome, a refugee support centre in Granville, Sydney on Saturday, 26 August 2017. Photo by Cole Bennetts Austalian actor, Brian Brown spends time with childen Karmel, Stella, Miar and Sam at the activities tent during the opening of the House Of Welcome, a refugee support centre in Granville, Sydney on Saturday, 26 August 2017. Photo by Cole Bennetts
When Khatereh Rabiei??? arrived in Australia from her native Iran four years ago she had no job references and little English but big hopes for the future.
The qualified accountant lived in Adelaide for a year before resettling in Sydney where life was initially hard.
“I couldn’t speak English at first and I couldn’t find a home because I didn’t have any references,” she recalled. “It was a big problem for me.”
A family member advised her to visit the House of Welcome, a long-running refugee and asylum seeker service in Sydney’s west.
“They were very supportive and so helpful, I am so grateful for what they have done,” she said.
The mother of two teenage children from Sydney’s north west is now studying English at TAFE while volunteering at the House of Welcome as well as at a school library.
“It’s good experience because I can put it on my resume,” Mrs Rabiei, who volunteers for the House of Welcome’s catering social enterprise, said.
“In Australia if you don’t have a resume it’s hard to find a job in the future. It’s given me self-confidence and that has had a big effect on me.”
Mrs Rabiei is one of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have been assisted by the House of Welcome since it was established in 2001.
It was originally housed in a disused butcher’s shop in Carramar, a building it outgrew because of the increasing need for support for new arrivals.
Saturday marked the official opening of its new and expanded premises, a former convent in South Granville with enough space for on-site English classes, advocacy work, employment programs, the catering enterprise and community events.
Actor and refugee advocate Bryan Brown said the House of Welcome, its staff and 100 volunteers played a significant role in helping people who had fled their homelands find their feet in Australia.
“It must be deeply difficult and painful to have to flee your own country so I, and a lot of other Australians, want to help,” he said.
“Australians want to make sure the people they live with in this country get a fair go and are able to live as decent a life as possible. Helping out is part of our DNA.”
The Australian government announced it would settle an extra 12,000 refugees in 2015, in addition to the existing humanitarian intake of 13,750 in 2015-16 and 13,750 in 2016-17.
Lyn Harrison, chief executive of St Francis Social Services, which operates the House of Welcome, said the need for support was increasing.
“People need the basics: accommodation, furniture, financial assistance, food,” she said. “We never seem to have enough food to give people.”
But once their clients, who predominantly come from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Africa, receive assistance they thrive.
“These people have amazing determination and resilience but when a person first arrives in a new country, social isolation is one of the biggest problems,” she said.
“To have a place where they know they can come and feel welcome, that makes a huge difference to people.”