The Hobart

A New Tasmanian Home

by Lily Whiting
A New Tasmanian Home

In Tasmania we’re fortunate to be home to people from all over the world. While many have purposefully chosen to move to Tasmania, there are people in our community who face no other choice than to flee to a safer place.

This month we celebrate National Refugee Week, from Sunday 19 June until Saturday 25 June. Jamyang McQuillen, the Tasmanian coordinator for the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) shared how the 2022 theme of ‘healing’ can be actioned.

How did you come to live in Tasmania? I was born and raised in a refugee camp in India. As a teenager, I moved to the U.S. as a humanitarian entrant. About five years ago, I moved to Tasmania as a skilled migrant.

Were you apprehensive about your moves? Moving to Tassie from California was not a massive change but moving to California from India was mind blowing. It was the first time I had flown in a plane. When we arrived in San Francisco, driving over the Bay Bridge, it was as if I was on a different planet.

What helped your adjustment? I had just finished high school in India and was really looking forward to attending University. I had a one-track mind and that was to figure out how to get into a Uni, but there were so many barriers. Language, social, cultural…I was the only Tibetan at the first University I went to. I felt very lonely, but I started making friends with the international students and that helped me to slowly create a sense of community.

What are some of the environments migrants have endured prior to arriving here? It really depends on where you were, who you are and how you made the journey to your new home. Most of our new Tasmanians, especially the ones arriving under the humanitarian settle­ment program, come from a challenging background. Being displaced for whatever reason takes a huge mental, emotional, and physical toll. Being persecuted or at risk based on one’s political or reli­gious beliefs, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or experiencing war where everything you know is destroyed in front of your eyes, people you know and love are injured or dying. It takes a huge toll.

How does the Humanitarian Settlement Program assist new Tasmanians? The Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) is funded by the Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs. The Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania assists new Tasmanians from a refugee background arriving via the HSP to settle into their new life. The service is initiated with the Department accepting people as refugees and linking them to our settlement location of Hobart and Launceston. We receive them at the airport, assist with short-term accommo­dation, link them to essential services such as English language classes, school enrolment, healthcare, etc. We connect them to Settlement services to help them with digital literacy, driving education, job readiness, and more. The program is an 18-month intensive case management model.

The war in Ukraine has been the centre of global attention – how does your program help? At the moment, we have only onshore Ukrainian nationals in our program. Currently, the Association of Ukrainians in Tasmania will refer someone to us or the individual them­selves will reach out to us. We conduct an urgent needs assessment and help if needed, and at the same time refer them to the Department of Home Affairs for approval for support through the Humanitarian Settlement Program. With the approval of the Department, we proceed to provide HSP services to this cohort based on eligibility, as with any other humanitarian entrant.

What community-based actions can we take to help? Inclusivity! As humans we all yearn for connection. People from refugee backgrounds most of the time feel isolated and lacking in a sense of belong­ing. Community-based actions – whatever it might be – if they can put in an extra minute or so to enhance inclusivity will go a long way to make someone feel welcomed and create a sense of belonging in that person who may be having a hard day.

How can the public help? In many ways. Volunteering if you have the time. Creating awareness within your family, within your community. If you are a business owner, giving someone from a refugee background a chance. Some of us may not speak perfect English or may not have the exact skills needed, but we are talking about people who are survivors, people who are resilient, people who are brave, people who will enrich Tasmania. One of the challenging areas for us, like many Tasmanians, is around housing. If you are a property owner interested in renting to a new Tasmanian family from a refugee background, please reach out to Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania.

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May 2024

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