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Migrant Support Programs

Sudan survivor finds safety and a reason to smile

Safia has two powerful phrases that describe her new life in Australia: "I have survived. I am safe," she says with a smile so bright it lights up the room.

The mother of five surviving children has endured unthinkable horrors since she fled Sudan to make a new home in the rural Queensland community of Gatton.

It’s in this tiny town that Australian Red Cross is working with isolated migrant families to understand and facilitate social connection.

"We asked the women what they'd like to do in order to feel more connected to the community," Australian Red Cross migrant support caseworker Sue Williams said.

“One of the areas they said they'd like to focus on was a women's group with activities including sewing, English, support with job networks, and volunteering as a way of giving something back."

A women's group now meets weekly, bringing together as many as 30 migrant and asylum seeker women from Sudan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Solomon Islands with Gatton’s women leaders who have volunteered to mentor and tutor the newcomers.

For Safia the gathering has helped her feel safe and connected her to her new home.

"We do many things. We talk together and our English is going better. We learn from different cultures. I like this group. It makes us happy because sometimes to be at home is boring," she said.

"Before we didn't have the women's group it was boring. There was nowhere to go where you could talk. But now in the women's group it's very nice. I'm very comfortable here."

Sue said with the group’s support, a number of the new arrivals were emerging as leaders and encouraging other members of their community still too shy to leave their homes.

"We have women across the cultures taking a lead role in the women's group and helping us to understand where they want to go from here,” she said.

Australian Red Cross’ Society of Women Leaders drives community change that welcomes and supports migrant women and their families.