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Refugee joins the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic

29 October 20200 comments

As a 17-year-old Iranian refugee Ghanieh Daghagheleh made a dangerous boat journey seeking safety.

After years of struggle, she and her family have built a new life in Australia. And now she has started a new job as a front-line worker in the fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

As a third-year student of Midwifery and Nursing at Victoria University she applied for and was offered a position as a Health Assistant in Nursing (HAN) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She is one of the undergraduate student nurses who are being co-opted into the health system to battle with the pandemic.

“I am enjoying and feel privileged in getting to work in contributing to the efforts to help beat the virus,” said Ghanieh, who is working on critical and acute care wards at the hospital.

“It is challenging but very interesting work. I am learning a lot and everyone at RMH is very friendly and supportive,” She said.

Ghanieh and her family spent six weeks in detention in Christmas Island and then in Darwin before being released and making their way to Melbourne in 2013.

Her first few years in Australia were tough; on a bridging visa, she was unable to study or work.

“It was very challenging. The only way I could study at University was to get a scholarship. I applied for a scholarship after finishing year 12, there were 200 applications and only one could be selected. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful,” Ghanieh said.

Not deterred, she enrolled in TAFE and studied for a certificate CIV in Health Science Foundations and after six month started Diploma in Nursing. Eventually, thanks to a scholarship, Ghanieh was able to get into a higher degree course in Midwifery and Nursing at Victoria University in 2018.

“I have always had a passion to study and work in the health care field and thanks to the scholarship, I was able to achieve my dream. However, it was very challenging pathway” she said.

“I had three interviews and had to go before a panel. When I got the phone call after a week to say I had been accepted, I didn’t believe it and I started to cry. This moment was the key start in achieving my dreams,” Ghanieh said.

The single mum has already been working in health care with Ambulance Victoria as an Ambulance Community Officer in Beaufort.

Ghanieh is one of six graduates from Ambulance Victoria and Life Saving Victoria’s first joint multicultural employment pathways program.

The program trains young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to work as ambulance officers in regional communities where caseloads are low and not staffed round-the-clock.

“Beaufort is a beautiful place and I love working in the community. People are different – it’s a smaller community and easier to connect with people. My goal is to help the community and give back,” she said.

Ghanieh’s personal experiences have fuelled the 25-year-old’s determination to help others and share her story.

She has worked as a lifeguard with Live Saving Victoria and is a member of the Hope Co-op, an organisation that supports students from refugee backgrounds, and she is a student ambassador at Victoria University.

When the opportunity came to work as a HAN to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghanieh jumped at the chance.

“When I am working to help people who are ill or distressed, it doesn’t feel like work. I feel like this is where I belong, it’s my second home,” she said.

“I am ready to do whatever I can to help fight this terrible pandemic. Nothing is more valuable than human life,” Ghanieh said.