Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Women migrants’ group reaching out

4 February 20220 comments

A new support group based in Melbourne’s north is helping newly arrived migrant and refugee women navigate their new lives in Australia.

The not-for-profit organisation ‘Zanobia’ is supporting women, particularly from Arabic-speaking backgrounds establish new lives in a new society.

The group’s programs provide advice and information on a range of important aspects of life in Australia including: vaccinations and COVID-19, mental health, Centrelink services, aged care, and the health and education systems.

And the women are also volunteering to help vulnerable people in the broader community.

‘Zenobia’, named after third-century Syrian queen, has also been providing citizenship classes for the women members.

Founder and former Syrian refugee Norman Medawar said that group had been meeting remotely on zoom late last year but planned to meet in person when the COVID pandemic has abated.

“We have been running a Saturday citizenship program for the women to help them understand how Australian society works and what services are available to them,” she said.

“We have also been running yoga and meditation classes for the women – some of whom have become anxious and disconnected – sometimes because of having to isolate

“So far the classes have been online but we are looking for a venue where we can meet together when that is possible,” Norma said.

A former client and volunteer with AMES Australia, Norma has been supported by former AMES staff members Kirsten Bardwell and Lisa Accadia in establishing Zenobia.

Recently, the group enjoyed an excursion to Melbourne’s CBD.

“We took a group of about 30 women to the city to show them some of key places in Melbourne,” Norma said.

“We went to Federation Square, Hosier Lane, St Paul’s Cathedral and Royal Arcade. We all had a wonderful day,” she said.

Norma said the group’s future plans included and art exhibition for women migrants and also fundraising for disadvantaged people in her Syrian homeland.

“We want to do more to help and support migrant women through things that bring people together like food and arts events,” she said.

“We are also encouraging women to do volunteer work to learn more about Australian culture and integrate better in the society.

“We’ve already volunteered to help Citylife Church in Lalor through cooking Middle Eastern food for isolated and homeless people.

“We’ve done this twice and we are planning to do more,” Norma said.

Norma said the group’s philosophy was to be inclusive and to empower women to take full places in society and achieve their social and economic goals. 

She said it was with this in mind that she came up with the name

Zenobia was a cultured monarch and fostered an intellectual environment in her court, which was open to scholars and philosophers.

She was tolerant toward her subjects and protected religious minorities.

The queen maintained a stable administration which governed a multicultural and multiethnic empire.

Zenobia died after 274 AD, and many tales have been recorded about her fate. Her rise and fall have inspired historians, artists and novelists, and she is a patriotic symbol in Syria.