NEW HOME: Yazidi refugee Zozik spoke at the recent opening of the new SSI office in Coffs Harbour. Inset: Yamamah Agha.
NEW HOME: Yazidi refugee Zozik spoke at the recent opening of the new SSI office in Coffs Harbour. Inset: Yamamah Agha. Jasmine Minhas

New service to help refugees settle into Coffs

A TEACHER'S aide at a Coffs Harbour high school, Zozik is now a long way from persecution at the hands of the Islamic State.

Zozik settled in Coffs Harbour with her siblings around four months ago after fleeing from northern Iraq, where the Yazidis have been subjected to genocide by ISIS since 2014.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority.

"I lived in north of Iraq with members of my religion, Yazidi. Nobody noticed us until the latest attack by ISIS and most of the Yazidis are now living in camps. Around 3000 Yazidis are still held captive by ISIS,” Zozik said.

"The genocide is still going. I'm a teacher's aide at Orara High School and I feel so great to help the Kurdish-speaking students who have come from the same background as me living with fear and trauma.

"I think the teachers are really doing their best to help students and I will keep doing my best to help them be positive.”

Zozik shared her story as a guest speaker in front of a large crowd at the opening of a new settlement service for refugees in Coffs Harbour, not-for-profit Settlement Services International (SSI).

SSI has been selected by the Federal Government as the Coffs Harbour provider of the new Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), which supports refugees from the moment they arrive at the airport until they are fully established in the community.

Just recently, SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis was named 2017 Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

SSI's Coffs Harbour office was officially opened by Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker on Friday.

"My father came to Australia at 17 in 1951 and at that time there were virtually no settlement services whatsoever, so I am more than mindful of the importance of settlement services in allowing people to make an easier transition into life in a new country,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

SSI HSP manager Yamamah Agha said the team were excited to begin their services in Coffs Harbour.

"Refugees bring a lot of skills and experience to contribute to the social capital of the region and the community. They are great people and for no fault of their own they have to flee their countries and seek safety elsewhere,” she said.

"The support we offer includes providing them with short-term accommodation, making sure they are linked to essential services like Medicare, banks, Centrelink, and schools, and we also focus on helping them build a connection with the local community.

"We focus on teaching them English and helping them find employment or education. We make sure they know of their rights and responsibilities as residents of Australia and provide a comprehensive orientation program where they learn about Australian law and culture.”

SSI has been running in Australia for more than six years now.

"We're very excited to work in Coffs Harbour, and we're hoping refugees will have a great life here.”

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