As a global debate rages on about immigration, including refugees, the story of how one man has been able to make a new life in Australia gives an insight into how important moving to a new country can be.
Rafi Qoja, aged 31, was a highly esteemed doctor in Iraq before his home town was occupied by rebel forces in 2014, prompting his family to flee in fear of their safety. Along with his family he spent more than two years in northern Iraq and Lebanon where his second child was born.
But it was being accepted for a visa for Australia that has really made a difference and just months after arriving on the country he is now sitting exams to be able to become a registered doctor.
‘We had lost hope but suddenly we were so excited. Our lives were saved in an instant,’ he said of the moment he heard that the family would be moving to Australia. ‘I like my job as a doctor because I want to help people anywhere in the world. Now, more than ever, I want to help others, just like they have helped us,’ he explained.
When he arrived he was given assistance from Settlement Services International (SSI) which offers help to people newly arrived to cope with a different culture and get integrated in their local community.
‘One of the case managers from SSI was from the same village we’re from. She spoke the same language and she understood what we were going through. She helped us to start our lives here,’ Qoja said.
SSI also introduced Mr Qoja to a skills qualifications workshop and connected him with a local doctor who gave him practical advice to kick start his career in Australia. After sitting an initial course Qoja sat his medical exams in November with the hope of becoming a registered practitioner with the Australian Medical Council.
‘Our country destroyed our culture and civilisation. We feel human for the first time, and we feel welcomed. We are the lucky ones to live in Australia when other parts of the world are suffering, and we want to give back to this country that helped us when we were in need,’ Qoja explained.
‘We want to be part of the community, but to keep our traditions. It’s important for kids to maintain their culture because there are so many advantages. We don’t want to isolate ourselves and we don’t want to forget our background. We want to share our culture with others,’ he added.
SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Services program provides essential support to refugees and humanitarian entrants in their first six to 12 months in Australia. Support services including airport pickups, housing support, community orientation to help new arrivals connect with their community, and specialised case management to help them connect with essential services and support.