Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC) has been supporting Afghans to resettle in Sydney for over 20 years – including those from Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara and Almak communities.
When the news broke about the ascendancy of the Taliban, staff at CMRC were certainly in shock, but there was also equal determination to respond and, most importantly, reach out the hand of inclusion by letting the community know they were not alone.
Within two days of Kabul falling, CEO Melissa Monteiro joined local MPs Julie Owens and Julia Finn in an online session with community and religious leaders and Afghan frontline staff to listen and understand the challenges to come.
They foretold a future where women would be erased overnight from education and employment opportunities and any position of power.
Secondly, within a week, CMRC initiated a program of “Sharing Circles”, bringing together three Afghan Hazara women, Farzana, Layla and Sani – of different ages, with different lived experiences and different periods of time living in Australia – to facilitate.
They now run six Sharing Circles with Afghan women in the community on a weekly basis.
The women participating in the Circles have the shared trauma of fearing for the safety of their families overseas while they are hibernating in a cruel cocoon of lockdown restrictions.
There is a common theme of worry and uncertainty. Some of the phone calls last for almost an hour, with clients needing someone to listen and empathise. They also have real questions like, “How can I propose or sponsor my husband/my sister-in-law /my fiancée/my sons to come to Australia?”