Refugees provide service with a smile

Here to help: Ashurina Younadam and Peter Butrus at their work station at Service NSW in Wetherill Park. Picture: Chris Lane
Here to help: Ashurina Younadam and Peter Butrus at their work station at Service NSW in Wetherill Park. Picture: Chris Lane

Ashurina Younadam graduated from Medical School in Syria.

Peter Butrus completed a Electrical Engineering degree in Iraq.

Now the pair are working side-by-side as Digital Service Representatives at Service NSW at Wetherill Park.

It’s been quite a journey. A long journey. A tough journey. 

On December 9 it will be one year since Ashurina arrived in Australia.

In 2013 she was forced to flee her home town in North East Syria.

“We had no choice; we just packed up the van and fled to Northern Iraq,” she said.

“My husband and I fled to a Syrian Refugee Camp. There was conflict, so we had to go.”

Ashurina, who was working in a hospital as a dermatology resident in Syria, was forced to rebuild her life.

The “long and hard” process as she called it was made easier by working with Doctors Without Borders – a medical charity for people experiencing war and crisis.

“I love to help people especially people in need seeking help with health issues,” she said.

“It’s something I always wanted to do.”

Even in Australia, the Elizabeth Hills resident is still helping.

For the past four months she has helped customers at Service NSW with online transactions.

Renewing drivers licence, transferring/renewing registrations, changing addresses and booking tests are her daily tasks.

It’s a long way from applying medical assistance at a war-torn refugee camp.

“It’s a totally different experience but I enjoy it. It is a very interactive job and I get to meet new people,” she said.

“And I am still helping people which is great. I have applied to the Australian Medical Council to hopefully become a doctor in Australia so I just have to keep taking the right steps.”

Service NSW has employed 11 refugees across their network, as part of NSW Government’s commitment to employ 100 refugees across the public service by June 30, 2018.

The 11 refugees (five from Syria, five from Iraq and one from Tibet) have secured internships from customer service roles to customer support including IT support.

At the end of the six months there will be an option to apply or be directly appointed into a full-time positions.

NSW finance minister Victor Dominello said employment is a “crucial part” of a refugees transition.

ISIS told us to pay jizya (a tax imposed on non-believers) or they will kill us.

Peter Butrus

“Many refugees confront challenges when resettling in Australia. Employment is a crucial part of the transition, but often it is difficult for refugees to access job opportunities,” he said.

“Service NSW is an exemplar across the public service when it comes to helping refugees secure employment.”

Peter Butrus is Wetherill Park Service Centre’s second refugee intern.

Like, Ashurina he is also a Digital Service Representative.

And like half of Australia's special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees he has also settled in Fairfield 

December 10 is his one-year anniversary in Australia. His said coming to Australia has given him a new lease on life.

These days he helps people decide on the best form of online transactions.

A far better decision then the one him and his family – which included his father, mother and four sisters – had to make in 2014 when living in Mosul.

“ISIS told us to pay jizya (a tax imposed on non-believers) or they will kill us,” he said.

“So we moved to moved to Dohuk to save our lives and after that went to Jordan.

“When we went we had nothing; just the clothes on our backs and had to leave everything behind. We left at night and the journey to Dohuk should have taken two hours but because it was so crowded because everyone was trying to leave it took almost six hours.”

Peter was working in the Dohuk Gas Power Station as an Operator Engineer in the Central Control Room. He had previously graduated from Electrical Engineering in 2012 from Mosul University in Iraq.

He said he plans to look into returning to engineering next year. But for now he is enjoining being one of the “lucky” ones to escape.

Together with Ashurina, the pair are the easiest to spot at the Wetherill Park Service NSW centre.

They are the ones with the big smiles and ready to help people on the sometimes daunting journey of the online world.

Their own journeys in Australia are only just beginning.

“Australia is totally different but it is so exciting to be able to have bright future,” Ashurina said.