By Evelyn Leckie

CONTRIBUTIONS made by refugees in Australia were celebrated in the City of Whittlesea community last week with a multicultural afternoon of speeches, dancing, delicious food and a traditional garment parade to share culture and traditions with the wider community.

Epping Memorial Hall overflowed with community members from Turkey, Syria, Iran, Bangladesh, Palestine, Jordan, Afghanistan, Egypt and many other countries to celebrate the journey, survival and resilience of people with a refugee background.

The Whittlesea Community Connections event provided an opportunity for Australians to meet community members with a refugee background on World Refugee Day.

Whittlesea Community Connections migration agent Dalal Sleiman said the event was a huge success.

“I myself came to Australia from Iraq as a refugee,” Ms Sleiman said.

“This event was a pleasure to help organise – it’s nice to see a smile on some of the refugees faces – I know how much they’ve suffered and to come to Australia and start life from scratch again is very difficult.”

Ms Sleiman said she came to Australia after the Gulf war in 1991.

“It’s been great in Australia – I’m so grateful for what this country has offered me.

“I was an accountant back at home and when I came to Australia it was challenging at first.“I learnt English at a language centre and I started working with Whittlesea Community Connections – I’ve been there for 15 years.”

Ms Sleiman now works as a migration agent and helps families going through similar experiences.

“It’s a very rewarding job – I help people reunite with their families – family separation is awful and ongoing wars can cause people to flee in different directions.

“There’s a large refugee community in Whittlesea – we have Arabic speaking refugees from Syria and Iraq and we have other visa holders from India, Sri Lanka and China too. “

Member for Scullin Andrew Giles paid a visit to the vibrant event as well as City of Whittlesea councillor Kris Pavlidis who both shared their experiences via social media.