From war to peace: Ipswich hosts refugee community day
IMAGINE living every day just waiting for the next bomb to drop or gun shot to be fired and praying that you escape alive.
That was the reality of Syrian refugee Antwanat Rahebeh and her family who managed to escape the war in Aleppo, Syria four years ago and who recently received refugee status in Australia earlier this year.
Ms Rahebeh said she and her family were incredibly grateful to be in Australia and to no longer have to worry about the perils of war.
"I'm here with my mum, dad and sister and my brother is in Canada because we were separated because of the war," Ms Rehebeh said.
"It's so nice to be here and to be able to sleep at night and we feel so loved and secure and have hope that we'll now be able to achieve all our goals.
"I was a teacher in Syria and then I went to Lebanon as a refugee where I lived in a camp for four years.
"While I was there I was teaching other refugees and now that I'm here I'm hoping to be a teacher one day as well.
"We want to thank Australia and the Australian people because they have been so welcoming and have treated us with so much respect and kindness."
Ms Rabeheh joined approximately 200 other refugees from various different Middle Eastern countries over the weekend at Ipswich's Ivory's Rock for a community day for recently settled refugees.
The Ivory's Rock team collaborated with Multicultural Development Australia (MDA) who have been involved with hosting other events for displaced people, including a first time visit to the beach.
Ivory's Rock public relations officer Kaye McKinnon said the centre was excited to host the community day and looked forward to holding similar future events.
"We have this amazing property here which is set up for international peace conferences and the owner was keen us to re-diversify, so what would be more appropriate than being able to welcome our most recent residents who have settled in Australia," Ms McKinnon said.
"For me the highlight of the day was greeting everybody when they arrived on the buses and the feeling when they lit up with excitement to be here, it was amazing."
MDA Future Builders manager Belinda Aldridge said the event was an important part of the refugees' journey to feeling connected to their new home and for also meeting other refugees as well as people from the local community.
"Days like today give new arrivals the opportunity to connect into Australian culture and a lot of cultures have that connection to land which is really important, so being able to be connect to the land in their new home is a very important learning experience," Ms Aldridge said.
"One family only arrived last week so they haven't even been here a full week yet and it's the first time they can get out and see a kangaroo and talk to some local people.
"They're all so excited, especially those refugees who are located in the city because being able to get out into the bush and to see animals is really positive."
Scenic Rim Councillor Duncan McInnes was also present on the day and said while there weren't that many refugees in the region, he said his community welcomed them with open arms.
"I think this is a great initiative by Ivory's Rock to put this together because we're becoming a more diverse community here and just to see the smiles on people's faces makes you proud to be Australian," Cr McInnes said.
"The community is reaching out to these people and they're very appreciative from what I can tell."
The Ivory's Peak refugee community day included a welcome to country, BBQ, visits to the organic farm, nature walks, wildlife demonstrations and displays, traditional music and dancing, and children's activities and games.