“We have to reflect deeply around what healing means,” says Mel, who touches on the precarious role of government and politics. “There are structures within our society that have hindered the agency and wellbeing of people from refugee backgrounds and those seeking asylum. A lot was learned through COVID at a state level, but less at a federal level. How can we heal with a lack of government support? And with things like institutional racism, we must ask: what does it mean to truly welcome people into our country?”
Working with a survivor of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime in Iraq many years ago, Mel was introduced to both ‘the depths humanity can descend to, and the amazing resilience shown when working through painful trauma’.
“I was amazed by his ability to just put one foot in front of the other, and to keep going. You try to place yourself in that situation, and you can’t even imagine what it would be like. We can step alongside someone in their healing journey, wherever it takes them, and honouring that they’re here with us at all, because that’s pretty extraordinary.”
Seeing a gap in communication and support between communities during COVID, Vanbawi supported them by disseminating public health advice via community information channels and creating resources in language to improve accessibility. He collaborated with community leaders and health practitioners to set up pop-up vaccination clinics, ensuring a culturally safe environment with warm referrals to improve vaccine uptake.
“I saw the depths humanity can descend to, and the amazing resilience shown when working through painful trauma.”