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Salisbury supports new arrivals


A welcoming parish and school community has made the transition from refugee to Australian citizen so much easier for Parisa Mohammadi and her family.

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Together with husband Farhad and son Iliya, Parisa arrived by boat from Indonesia more than a decade ago, after fleeing persecution in their home country of Iran.

The family was featured in the 2011 December issue of The Southern Cross as they prepared to celebrate their first Christmas as ‘free’ residents in Australia. After arriving on our shores in 2010 they were initially sent to Christmas Island for three months and were then housed at the Inverbrackie detention facility in the Adelaide Hills for another three months before being released on a permanent visa.

Over the ensuing years they have welcomed daughter, Homa, who is in Year 3 at St Augustine’s School, Salisbury. Ilya also attended St Augustine’s and is now in Year 11 at Thomas More College. Farhad now runs his own barber shop in Salisbury and after many years of volunteering, Parisa was recently employed three days a week to assist with St Augustine’s occasional care, crèche and playgroup.

To top off their cultural assimilation, all four received Australian citizenship in 2016.

With World Refugee Day to be celebrated on Sunday June 20, Parisa once again took time to sit down with The Southern Cross and reflect on her past decade in Australia.

She spoke of how her Catholic faith has been a mainstay during difficult times, and the wonderful support the family continues to receive as members of the Salisbury parish and school.

In the early years, she said parishioners assisted them by providing a microwave and heater and also helped source suitable accommodation. They were able to put the children on the waiting list for St Augustine’s school and when Ilya was accepted Parisa began volunteering “as much as possible”.

“When the school said tomorrow is a sausage roll or pancake day, I would put my hand up and say I’m free and I want to come,” she said.

“I like to help… and I’ve made a lot of friends. I also joined the P&F to help with my English.”

Parisa is currently a member of the school board and principal Georgia Dennis said in such a multicultural school it was invaluable to have her input on behalf of other refugee families.

“When I know they are from another country I stop and say ‘hello, how are you’. I don’t know them but I tell them we have a playgroup and invite them to come along,” Parisa said of meeting new families in the school yard.

“When we first came to Australia and my daughter was born I came to this playgroup every Tuesday and Friday. Even when she went to school I still came to the playgroup – just myself – and I would help the parents look after their kids, help Carole (Smith)…and one day Carole asked if I would like to work here.”

Thinking back to their life in Iran, where Farhad was once jailed for speaking out against the government, Parisa said living in Australia and belonging to the Salisbury community was a blessing.

“When I came here I was very homesick but I went to church. I didn’t understand what they were saying but I felt very relaxed and I could pray in my language. I felt at peace. Now we have Australian passports, citizenship, a business, a church and school, and life is good.”


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