“Because of this job, I returned to the same person I was; strong and dancing.”

Atoor knows first-hand the challenges of rebuilding a life in a new country. She was forced to flee her home country in 2009 when her life was threatened. Now the Iraqi refugee has landed her dream job helping other refugees find peace and stability in their community.   

Born and raised in Baghdad, Atoor worked as a Vocational Youth and Program Officer with charity IRD.   Her role was to promote education for young people in Iraq.

“I was helping young people in the community to find positive outlets and avoid involvement with terrorism,” Atoor said.

She frequently visited volatile areas, and her support was welcomed. Then Atoor organised a fun run that would change her life.

Listen 🎧 to Atoor’s incredible story via the Breaking Barriers podcast.

This event was designed to allay the long-held tensions between Shiites and Sunni’s, yet not all people in the region shared this belief. Once Atoor’s full name was published in the media, she and her parents started receiving death threats; they were forced to flee to Lebanon.

“It was difficult,” Atoor said. “In Baghdad, I’d cared for my parents – particularly my father who was paralysed on one side from a stroke – and provided for them financially, but I couldn’t work in Lebanon because the government wouldn’t allow it.”

A new start

Atoor’s family were eventually given asylum in Australia in 2011. “Australia is like heaven. Thank God we were welcomed, that made us feel like we were doing the right thing and we were on the right path,” Atoor said.

Then happiness turned to shock after Atoor’s mother was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after they arrived. Atoor became her mother’s devoted carer for eight years. When she passed away in 2016, grief and depression hit Atoor hard.

Counselling and finding a new focus helped Atoor move forward. She completed a Certificate 3 and 4 in Community Services, plus a Diploma in Counselling at TAFE NSW. She began volunteering at the Assyrian Australian Association where she helped other refugees.

Then tragedy once again struck and Atoor’s father died. This devastating event also changed her circumstances; now Atoor was a job seeker with no local work experience.

“I didn’t know anything about employment here, I only knew how to care for my parents,” Atoor said. “I was depressed, grieving and scared about what would happen to me.”

Finding support

Fairfield Employment Consultant, Phung Kim Ngo worked closely with MatchWorks Refugee Liaison Officer, Fatuma Jama to support Atoor through this challenging time.

“Atoor was qualified and highly skilled, and wanted to work,” Kim said. “However, she needed support and mentoring to overcome complex underlying barriers.”

The team helped Atoor:

  • Engage with the MatchWorks Health and Wellbeing team for counselling sessions.
  • Complete the MatchWorks Kick Start goal setting and mentoring program.
  • Explore different career opportunities of interest.
  • Refresh her resume and prepare for interviews.

Once Atoor was ready, Kim helped her apply for aged care and receptionist roles in Sydney.  Then a Refugee Liaison Officer role became available at MatchWorks Fairfield and the team knew her lived experience would make her an exceptional candidate for the full-time role.

“I am grateful that I got the right support from the right people,” Atoor said.

“Even though I hadn’t worked in Australia, MatchWorks believed in me. I trusted them, and they helped me find a job I love. The day that I was told I had this job was the first time I had smiled for two years after losing my parents. Before, I had so much pressure on me and it changed me. Because of this job, I returned to the same person I was; strong and dancing. I feel empowered to look to my future.”

Find out more about our employment services for job seekers and businesses, or call 1300 13 23 63 to chat to your local team.