Service group helps new arrivals work through issues

Service group helps new arrivals work through issues

Alocal service organisation has been recognised by South Australian Governor the Honourable Frances Adamson AC for the work it does within the Limestone Coast community.

Sophie Coote and Rhett McDonald from the Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service (STTARS) were the joint winners of the 2023 Community Sector award earlier this year at the Governor’s Multicultural Awards.

Mr McDonald and Ms Coote support roughly 50 migrants and refugees who are new to the community each year and help them work through their trauma.

The trauma can arise from a range of issues including conflict/war zones, refugee camps, the unknown of the migration journey and leaving behind everything they knew.

STARRS was nominated by the South Australian Police and Australian Federal Police who work closely with the organisation on multiple projects.

“We did not know about the nomination at all until we got a letter to say that we were a finalist,” Ms Coote said.

“We do not do these things for the accolades or anything, we are generally more comfortable behind the scenes but really it’s a beautiful recognition of our whole region because we do not do this work in isolation.

“Typically, in country areas we rely on many other organisations and partnerships and also the people we support, we would not be able to do that without them being really vulnerable and taking a chance in trusting us.

“We like to think about this as being an award for everybody and showcasing our whole region of what we can achieve.”

Ms Coote said the most rewarding part of her job was when clients were vulnerable enough to open up and trust in humanity despite having every reason not to.

“For me personally I feel incredibly honoured to be allowed to be sitting next to somebody, to be in that space when somebody is incredibly vulnerable,” she said.

“For me that is just a massive honour and a huge gift and that is something that I do not take for granted at all and I think that is a huge achievement in itself.

“They really have reason not to trust for everything they have been through however they still find an amazing ability, this humanity, in hope and in trusting of another human.

“The strength in humanity and one’s ability to survive is incredible but not only that, the ability to hold onto hope.

“People come with incredible skill and the fact they survived in itself is remarkable when many did not.”

Mr McDonald said he would like to see the community engage with and embrace new arrivals particulary based on their skills rather than their background.

“Sometimes people do not realise what amazing people they are walking past in the street,” he said.

“These people have a lot to contribute definitely and how we are open to that contribution and how we step into that and connect with them in the community is something that is worthwhile people 

“Connection to community means belonging and safety and of course it means the same for them and as much as we receive that we have to create it too.

“If community is accepting us then we must accept community.

“The survivors of torture and trauma are brave enough to step into these spaces and what we are helping organise and if we did not get then we would not be in front of the multicultural awards.”

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