Off to a new start
THE Dongrin family moved to Coffs Harbour last July.
Relocating from Sudan, the Dongrins were faced with many hardships and when they arrived in a new country were faced with a new culture and surrounds.
In September the family welcomed baby Aruai and yesterday they became part of the STARTTS program at the Coffs Harbour Community Village.
STARTTS offers counselling, group programs and health assessments to refugees who have recently arrived in Australia and, for the first time, the program has opened in Coffs Harbour.
Since February STARTTS project officers Denise Tunks and Lisa White have been working with refugee community members, in preparation for the launch of the new multicultural program.
Coffs Harbour has become the focal point for the arrival of refugees to the Mid North Coast region in recent years, with more than 150 new arrivals to the area in the last four years, the largest group from Sudan.
Team leader for STARTTS, Peter Davis, said many refugees come to Australia from countries such as Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Iraq.
"They have lived through war and have experienced the trauma of losing loved ones, the destruction of their homes and their livelihoods," Mr Davis said.
"Many refugees have lost everything and have survived torture and other human rights violations. We want to assist people who have lived through these experiences to rebuild their lives in a new country with new opportunities."
The service offers counselling and group therapy which is just one way of helping people understand the impact of trauma on themselves, their family and community.
"We thought the best way to familiarise the community with our work was to hold a community event with the participation of many within the refugee community of Coffs Harbour," he said.
At the launch yesterday Aboriginal Elder Ken Nayda delivered a welcoming speech to the gathering in recognition of the important position of the traditional owners of the land.
STARTTS will continue a series of training sessions that have been conducted in the Coffs Harbour area today with a special workshop addressing the needs of refugee children and young people.
For more information on the work of STARTTS contact the office on 6650 9195.