Save the Children program helps refugees settle in Australia
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > It Takes a Village helps new arrivals from Afghanistan to settle in to Australian life

It Takes a Village helps new arrivals from Afghanistan to settle in to Australian life

by Freya Lucas

June 29, 2023

Walking into the ‘It Takes a Village’ group, held in an outer suburb of Perth, Western Australia, it appears like any other playgroup, with a group of mothers and young children playing games, drawing, painting, singing and dancing. 


The group, however, is quite different, and has been carefully designed to help recent arrivals from Afghanistan make the most of their new life in Australia, lessening the challenges of culture shock and isolation in the unfamiliar suburbs of Perth. 


Run by Save the Children’s 54 Reasons, the program helps families connect with each other, access community services, and get their children ready for school. It directly addresses the children’s rights as newly arrived migrants, supporting their right to assistance as refugees and their right to quality education to help them thrive in their new home. 


It Takes a Village provides support to the families through three different but interconnected services, starting with a playgroup for mums and kids. 


“We have the supported playgroup for zero to five years, and that’s using our Play2Learn model, that is really about bringing families together, that social interaction and learning off each other, and also making connections. So, outside the playgroup families can connect and also support each other,” explained Callan (pictured), Regional Manager for 54 Reasons in Perth.


The second service is integrated into playgroup sessions, with families getting help for life skills such as using the public transport system, how to obtain a driver’s licence, volunteering or employment opportunities, as well as navigating the visa requirements that many families have to face with the hope of achieving permanent residency.

The third element of the service involves in-depth, one-on-one sessions with the parents. These can cover anything from helping them feel welcome in the suburb they’re living in, to counselling to support positive family functioning.

“It’s great to see the progress the families make from just taking that first step in the door, then realising they can interact with others who have been through the same process,” Callan said.


“It’s really wonderful to see the progress as they become more confident through those social interactions and the work we do. We’ve seen some people progressing, to four or five years down the track actually working with us in the program. It is absolutely amazing.”


Bi-cultural worker Melina is one of those who have progressed, having first come to know the service by attending after she arrived from Afghanistan.

“It really helps the children that I’m one of the playgroup mothers,” she said. 


“When I was a mum from that playgroup, my children didn’t know how to play, how to paint, how to share with other children. They learn how to share, how to paint, and they just make them prepare for school. Then they were ready for school. For these children now, the benefit I had from that playgroup, now I’m telling all these mums who are coming here.” 


“The best thing in my role is to help someone to get better, to be happier. I’m just helping with the things they need and we have a little bit of experience with,” she added. 


For Support Worker Hawa, her own experience as a newly arrived migrant from Somalia helps her connect with the mums and children. 


“In my own experience, my biggest challenge is the language barrier, cultural differences, and just everything new,” she said. 


“It’s just a completely different lifestyle living in Australia compared to where we come from…Most parents are isolated, they don’t have family here, they don’t know many people. So, once they’re here (in the service), they talk to other people…other mothers and socialise. And also, they learn those basic life skills and how to bring up children in a different way…they may be a beautiful parent, but it’s a completely different way of bringing up kids in Australia. So, it helps them in many ways.”


For Hawa, the best thing about her job is seeing families smile, and children growing in their confidence. 


“The parents, they always talk to us and they tell us how the program has helped them and how they’re grateful that we are there for them, and how their kids are doing,” she said. 


“They say, ‘Thank you for providing this service, it’s really helpful.’ And some of them bring others and they tell them, ‘Oh, you know, I benefit from this program, come.’ Yeah, so it’s beneficial for the whole community, not for just one person.”


Learn more about  54 Reasons here. Information about Save the Children can be found here. For the original coverage of this story, created by Save the Children, see here. Photos: Dave Walters / Save the Children.

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button