That journey to find a safe and welcoming place to call home has taken him 17 long years.
Back in 2003, Mohammad’s family – his five sisters, brother, mother, as well as his wife and their children – were living happily in Iraq. He had a degree in electronics and communication engineering and worked as a technical manager for a medical equipment company.
But all that changed in March that year, when an intervention in Iraq by US-led coalition forces began what would turn into an eight-year-long war. “[In 2005] we fled to the Syrian border where we were registered by the UNHCR [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and told to stay in the refugee camp.
Mohammad is the only one in his extended family granted an Australian humanitarian visa and he arrived here with his wife and children in 2012. “We have been scattered around the globe. My mother and two of my siblings are in Sweden, a sister in USA, another sister in Spain, one sister in Jordan and one in UAE. I haven’t seen my siblings since we fled from Iraq.”
Once in Australia the family received government support – provided to refugees who arrive through a formal resettlement program – to help them settle in. “Moreover, we were able to access a lot of other services that non-government organisations provide to refugees.”
What he loves most about life in Australia is the healthcare and education systems. “Before coming to Australia, thinking about my children’s future and whether they were going to be able to live a healthy life or have proper education, was like a nightmare.
“The biggest challenge for my wife and I was securing a job. There is no job provider that is specialised in helping refugees fit into the right occupation that matches both their overseas experience and qualifications. If there was such a thing it would be great.”
Since arriving Mohammad, who settled in Perth, has earned two masters degrees – one in engineering management and one in business administration – from Curtin University.
Eman, his wife, has trained in early childhood education and now works in a childcare centre. While their three eldest children have graduated high school and are at university – one is studying marketing, one dentistry and another pharmacy.
Mohammad is a long-time Australian Red Cross volunteer helping other refugees, and people seeking asylum, through programs like home tutoring and a job cafe. “I started volunteering with Red Cross shortly after arriving … I still volunteer to this day … Red Cross has been helping refugees for a long time, and acknowledge and understand refugees’ problems, strengths and needs.”
Almost three years ago he joined our staff, as a Bilingual Support Worker for our Humanitarian Settlement Program, and has received a special Red Cross Service Award for his work. The team Mohammad works in supports refugees and humanitarian entrants in Australia during their first year here as they become self-reliant and active members of the community.
“I take on different roles but the role I love most is welcoming new arrivals at the airport, taking them to their prepared short term accommodation and conducting the first induction.
With every person he meets, he learns new things. “I can only respect those strong people, and try to give them everything I can. I hope to continue making them feel welcome and make them feel a sense of belonging.
“They want to make sure their kids can go to school. They want to work, and they want to contribute to our communities. Just like anyone they seek a life of dignity, freedom and security.”