Women finding home

Published on 08/03/2016

By Rekha Sanghi – Settlement Services International

Hana is from a refugee background. Her advice is, “You should be brave and strong and not expect anyone to do anything for you.”

Women from a refugee background face a multitude of challenges and barriers when trying to find a place to call home in Australia.

Like many Australians faced with a sudden change in living circumstances, they don’t have a rental history, referees or money for a bond or advance rent.

Further compounding the difficulties of finding a safe and secure home is the fact that these women have escaped violence, war and other traumatic circumstances in their home countries. They now have to adjust to a new culture, environment and language, with many being the sole carer for their children.

Some have lost their partners to war, while others have fled domestic and gender-based violence, leaving them with long-lasting mental and physical scars.

Adjusting to life in Australia is particularly difficult for these women, but the pressure is eased somewhat when they arrive at Sydney airport and are met by Settlement Services International (SSI) who helps start their settlement journey.

SSI is a community-based not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, asylum seeker assistance, mulitcultural foster care, disability support and employment services in NSW.

Providing housing options is also one of SSI’s key service areas. Last financial year SSI supported more than 1,200 people in vulnerable situations to find accommodation, including refugees and people seeking asylum.

Hana* arrived in Australia in June 2014 with her two sons. She fled Iraq almost six years ago, but spent four years in Syria waiting for her application to seek refuge in Australia to be approved. Sadly, while in Syria, her husband was killed. Speaking through an interpreter, Hana said her flat didn’t feel like ‘home’ yet, but she had no other options
at the moment.

“The location is good but my flat is very small and my sons are 18 and 21 years old and still have to share a room,” Hana said.

“I can’t work because of rheumatism and a slipped disc so I don’t know how I will ever afford to find something bigger.”

When asked what advice she would give to other women in her situation she said the most important thing was to help yourself. “You should be brave and strong and not expect anyone to do anything for you,” she said.

Zara* has three small children and has been in Australia six months. Also from Iraq, she spent three years in Malaysia waiting for her visa application to be approved. Zara was granted a ‘Woman at Risk’ visa, which is given to women who do not have the protection of a male relative and are in danger of victimisation, harassment of serious abuse because of their gender. Zara has had three different rental properties in the short time she has lived in Australia, but she is happy to stay in her current house for now and make it her home.

“There is no internet connection at the moment so I feel very cut off from the world, but it is a quiet place, close to some shops, and good for my small children,” Zara said.

Being a woman, and of refugee background, can be a double disadvantage, but the resilience and strength of these women shines through no matter what their situation.

*names have been changed





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