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Mildura mask makers lifting spirits

25 September 20201 comment

A family of Afghan tailors has been making face masks to protect people in Mildura from the COVID-19 virus.

Afghan refugee Razie Abdullah and her family have been turning out masks in partnership with the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC).

Hundreds of the multiple use and reversible masks have been sold with the proceeds going to SMECC and local communities.

Razie said her family came up with the idea of making masks because they had worked as tailors in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We are a family of tailors and we all know how to sew. So we thought that if we could set up a mask making enterprise it would be helpful to people and a good idea,” said Razie, who works with migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia as a community guide.

“SMECC offered us some space to work in so we signed a contract with them and began,” she said.

“My siblings and my mum are all tailors and we used to make hand–made wedding dresses and traditional clothing in Afghanistan,” Razie said.

At the height of their production, the Abdullah family were creating 130 masks in three days.

They have currently run out of elastic so production has stopped. But it will resume when supplies arrive in Mildura.

Razie says locals in Mildura have loved the masks.

“My sister is a designer so the masks are very colourful and we have had great feedback,” she said. 

The Abdullah family are originally from Afghanistan but as ethnic Hazaras were targeted by militant extremist groups and forced to flee to Pakistan.

They settled in the western city of Quetta, which for many years was safe haven for Hazaras.

Hazaras ran businesses in the city and the community enjoyed economic growth and peace.

But as the global political landscape changed and the US invaded Afghanistan, things worsened for the Hazara.

The community lost around 2000 of its members in targeted killings and suicide attacks and thousands more were injured or permanently disabled.

The insecurity in Quetta forced many Hazaras, including Razie and her family to flee.

They arrived in Australia ten years ago and have lived in Mildura for the past six.