Bernadette first joined the SMRC’s Tai Chi program in 2017 with the goal of improving her balance as well as her physical and emotional wellbeing. She is also currently part of our Strengths program. She has a positive outlook on life and has often stated that she has been empowered through her education. This approach to her life has meant that she is often seen as a mentor to many. Her story of courage, determination, overcoming loneliness and disadvantage is one to inspire the many migrants in Australia, especially women who wish to take on a greater role in life.

Despite migrating to Australia with high hopes, she was shattered when her husband passed away. Due to her visa status, she was unable to work or receive benefits from the government. In a bid to keep busy, she began volunteering in different roles with the hope for eventual change. Her volunteering roles included interpreting, assessing clients, accounting, helping with news programs, book relief and reception work. Eventually, she received her permanent residence in Australia and was offered a casual role as an interpreter. This led to work five days a week at a NFP organisation in administration and interpreting.

Although she ended her contract with the NFP organisation last year, this has not given her cause to stop working and continues to learn through various courses and community activities. These courses are as wide and varied as her various volunteer roles. These include studies in Income Tax, Computer Science, a Diploma in Retail Management, a Certificate III in Child Care and is currently studying a Diploma in Community Services and Mental Health.

Her experiences and knowledge have meant that she has been recognised as a figure of inspiration in the community. It has also meant that she has been asked to speak at public events including as an International Women’s Day speaker. She also spoke at other organisations including NFP organisations about short and long term accommodation and with case managers on how to deal with asylum seekers and refugees from her cultural background.

Having achieved so much, she still wants to contribute to the community with her aim being to set up a small consulting business where she can provide information, interpreting and form filling assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. On top of this, her dream is to continue to pursue accounting and continues to do this by being a treasurer in a local community organisation.

Bernadette wants to continue to learn to the best of her ability and doesn’t want to get bored in her mind or body. She is always looking to encourage and inspire women to lift up their spirits so that they can become empowered in their lives.

We call on the Federal Government to help the people of Afghanistan

As an employer and support network of many Afghan migrants, and a supporter and advocate of people’s rights, we find the news of Afghanistan falling to Taliban control particularly distressing. We have already seen and heard so much in the short time since this occurred. We also know that the people will be under severe physical risk or affected in many other ways.

As such, SMRC has added its name as part of a joint statement being sent to all federal parliamentarians. Penned by the Refugee Council, this submission outlines several practical responses that can be made by the Australian Federal Government. These are as follows:

1. Do everything possible in coming days to evacuate people who are at grave risk within Afghanistan

2. Urge governments in the region to keep borders open for people trying to flee persecution in Afghanistan, including and particularly Pakistan and Iran.

3. Offer additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees immediately, as the Australian Government did in 2015 with 12,000 additional places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

4. As many people are now at risk from hunger and lack of shelter due to their forced displacement, immediately increase Australian aid to the region to support programs to assist people who have been displaced across borders and, wherever possible, support organisations still offering assistance within Afghanistan.

5. Extend the temporary visas of all Afghan citizens in Australia, as the Government did in May for citizens of Myanmar, to assure people that they will not be at risk of imminent forced return.

6. Extend permanent protection to 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas, recognising that members of this group are unlikely to be able to return in safety for many years to come and need the assurance that they can continue to live in Australia without the constant fear of forced return.

7. Assist Afghan Australians, including people with temporary and permanent protection visas, with urgent family reunion applications for relatives who are at particular risk, as members of minorities targeted by the Taliban or people likely to be targeted because of their connections to western nations and should include giving priority to finalising family reunion applications.

We hope the action taken is quick and decisive. SMRC is here to offer support to anyone affected by the situation currently unfolding.