February 8, 2019

Belonging breathes life and hope.

The 24th  of January 2019, will be a treasured memory for Spectrum team member Saghar, and her husband Amir.    On this day, they became Australian citizens.

I sat down with Saghar to understand her journey and talk to her about what this brings for her.

Saghar was an English teacher in Iran – she qualified as a teacher at 23, and gained experience working at the Language Institute in Tehran. She lived with her parents, sisters, and twin nieces.  They were, and are, a tight knit family, who shared the busy operation of the household, and especially the delight of raising boisterous twins.  In 2012 and recently married, Saghar and her new husband made the difficult decision to leave Iran.  Speaking of this time is understandably difficult.

Saghar talks of her sadness of leaving her beloved homeland, country of her birth.  “I still have memories of the beautiful family times in Iran, our large extended family, or waking in the mornings to my exuberant niece clambering over me.   I miss them so much it aches.”

“Though I only knew a little bit about Australia, I had this perception that it was a calm and friendly country, however I certainly had no idea about Melbourne’s weather!” says Saghar, wryly laughing at this very typical Melbournian lament.  “We arrived in Australia on the 22nd of August 2012 and I remember the drive from the airport very clearly.  My home town’s weather in Iran is a lot like Darwin, and so when we arrived in Melbourne and it was bitterly cold, I remember shivering, and feeling quite shocked!”

“We were welcomed at the airport by the Redback team, and spent the first 6 weeks in the Welcome House, as we got our bearings and adapted to our new home town.  Melbourne was so clean, and peaceful, but so over-whelming.  In Iran, I knew where everything was, and how to get there.  In those first weeks in Melbourne, I was timid, and had no idea how to find everything I needed to make life work in our new country.  I had never been out of Iran!   The trams clanged and making them stop was scary – so of course it was not long before we got hopelessly lost.  So lost, that I could not understand the signs on the shops, to begin to figure out how to get home.  Somewhere out there in the world is a lovely person, to whom I handed my phone, and who talked with our contact at the Welcome House to discuss how it was best to get to where I needed to be.  We have been welcomed with such open hearts in Australia.”

“We were so fortunate to find a comfortable home to rent in Reservoir, that we are still able to call home to this day.  We, like many others who arrive in Australia in this way, came with very little.  My parents helped in any way they could, sending blankets and reminders of our homeland, but ultimately we needed to find our own way, starting from the ground up,” she says with a quiet determination.

She goes on to acknowledge the journey, “There were times that were indescribably lonely, and so very hard, but we were sustained by this beautiful country we now call home, and the hope that we could create a new life, in safety, so that we might flourish and contribute to a better world.”

Once in Australia, Saghar studied her Masters of International Community Development and, as employment was difficult to secure, Saghar volunteered with the Salvation Army for 2 years before joining Spectrum. She began as a community guide, supporting refugees and asylum seekers, as part of Spectrum’s Settlement Services team and has gone on to become a Client Support Worker, and progressed to her current role as Case Manager.

Now, with her husband’s family spread from Canada to Germany, and Saghar’ s parents and sisters still in Iran, becoming an Australian citizen presents both sadness and great joy.    “Already I know deeply that becoming an Australian citizen gives me a sense of true belonging to this country that has breathed life into my future.   From the day I stepped off the plane I have felt a profound gratitude to my new home, however becoming an Australian citizen provides an even heavier sense of responsibility that I look forward to holding with both hands.”

“It gives me great hope, that as an Australian citizen I will be able to invite my parents to visit Australia on holiday.  I cannot begin to imagine how that day will feel.”

And in reflection on becoming an Australian citizen, “There is immense joy and gratitude.  The joy that as an Australian citizen, I am entitled to enjoy freedom of movement, the freedom to be part of this stable and progressive country; I am honored to be part of a system to build something positive.”

Saghar, wishing you heartfelt congratulations, from all your Colleagues at Spectrum.


by Natalie Dillon Marketing and Communications Manager, in conversation with Saghar M.

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