Refugee Week

Lattouf El Chami

I arrived in Melbourne, Australia in 2021. I was born and raised in Lebanon, I completed my Master’s degree in Music Education at Antonine university-Beirut. Growing up in Lebanon, I have so many memories of wars and my country being unstable.

In 2007, the conflict intensified between different militant groups and the government. The conflict had spread to previously secure areas since the civil war in the 1975-90. During all these years the economic situation was unstable until 2019.

The economic crisis in Lebanon, in May 2021 was one of the hardest situations we have faced. Lebanon’s currency has lost more than 90% of its value. Banks were freezing withdrawals and pharmacies were running out of medicine.

When you stepped out on the street in Beirut, you had to notice the incredibly long gas lines and bare shelves in the once well-stocked pharmacies.

*The Journey*

Lebanon was a vacation spot, a tourist mecca, home to a thriving middle class. It is now in an economic crisis that has been grinding on for more than a year. These are only few memories that I carry with me:

My father being away because he worked for the government and my mother worrying about us and his safety. We couldn’t leave the country because he was working for the government. As soon as he received his retirement, my father’s dreams all went downhill. The country was no longer a safe and sustainable option for us to continue living. My parents took the decision to leave our home and begin a new journey in Australia.

*Arriving to Australia*

In 2021, after multiple rejections to our humanitrain claims, we were finally given the refugee humanitarian visa to come to Australia. We arrived in Australia in February 2021. Back then, we had to quarantine for 2 weeks in a hotel due to the COVID 19 situation. However, after getting out of isolation, we were fortunately welcomed by community members and relatives. Additionally, we were given a furnished house with all the essential needs provided to start a new journey.

Since our arrival to Australia, we have been involved in the refugee community. I started participating in volunteer work within numerous organisations. I have worked in so many places including hospitality and educational institutions until I received my recognised qualifications one year later. I am currently using my Master’s degree to teach music.

Coming to Australia as a refugee and being passionate about sharing my experience has led me to become a public speaker for the Refugee Council of Australia Community engagement program. This provides me with opportunity to support the understanding of what it means to be a refugee, here in Australia.

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