By Mitch Guy
A STRUGGLING family of asylum seekers have found their feet in Wonthaggi and have been overwhelmed by the support of the local community.
Raj, Gamathy and their seven-month old boy Shamakh have settled in the local area after three difficult years of uncertainty.
The Hindu couple of south Indian heritage fled their home country of Malaysia, where Hindus are heavily discriminated against due to the majority Muslim population.
The lack of opportunity saw Gamathy venture to Australia on a tourist visa in 2012 and she was joined in Robinvale by Raj in 2013.
In early 2014, the couple were placed in a detention centre in Broadmeadows.
After 312 days inside the fence and significant strain on the couple’s mental health, the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project stepped in and helped them to leave the detention centre in March 2015.
The organisation quickly found the couple housing and provided much-needed support. They lived at a church compound of a South Yarra church.
Raj received his working rights and the couple was able to find a room in Clayton.
He worked as a cleaner and saved money, so the couple, with Gamathy now pregnant, moved into a one bedroom house in Carnegie.
But Raj soon lost his job and was unable to pay the rent.
Thankfully, a Cape Paterson couple offered a bungalow to the family via the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project and Raj has landed a job with local cleaning contractors, Sparkelly Clean.
The family’s fortunes have turned around since they moved to the area and they now rent a house in Wonthaggi North.
Hearing of the family’s struggles, coordinator of the South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees group, Felicia Di Stefano decided to lend a hand.
She emailed members of the group, asking for donations of household items to support the family.
Donations of furniture, a fridge, a TV, a bed, a washing machine and other household items have been gratefully accepted by the family, which has helped them set up their new life in Wonthaggi.
“We are very thankful for the support and we’re very happy to move to Wonthaggi, because the people are very helpful and very kind,” Raj said.
“We’re getting a lot of support from the local community. Felicia has helped us with everything, she’s our background supporter.”
Raj is on his way to paying off the family’s debts and is embracing his new job, while Gamathy is looking to complete a food handling course shortly.
Now, the family is hoping to secure a permanent protection visa.
“We feel more freedom and we’re very happy where we are here,” Raj said.
“We don’t think about going back to Malaysia, we only miss our parents. They’re coming this year to visit us and we’re waiting for that moment.”
The South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees group exists to make refugees’ lives better.
Felicia spoke highly of Raj and Gamathy’s endeavour.
“People who want to come here to start a new life are usually very, very resourceful people,” she said.
“What this family has done is come to Cape Paterson and within three months, Raj has got a full time job, Gamathy is going to do the food handler’s course and she’s already run a few Indian cooking classes.
“They will be such a great addition to our community and boost our economy, introduce their culture to us and enrich our community.”
The South Gippsland Rural Australians for Refugees group is still looking for donations of a lawn mower, a baby pram and a sewing machine, so Gamathy can make baby clothes.
If anybody is willing to donate these items or funds, please email Felicia on firstname.lastname@example.org