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22 June, 2022

Ukrainians find a home in Mareeba

UPROOTED Ukrainian refugees fleeing their war-torn homeland have been welcomed to Mareeba with open arms in a special morning tea and information session to help them adapt to their new home.

By Rhys Thomas

Ukrainian refugees were welcomed to Mareeba last week with a special morning tea helping them adapt to their new country and link them with essential services.

The morning tea was hosted by Centacare and held at the Cedric Davies Hub in Mareeba last week, to welcome the newest wave of refugees and help them engage with necessary services in the shire. 

Oleksandr Diachok and his wife Valentya are just two of many refugees who have been forced to flee their homes and adapt to life in a foreign country. 

The couple have joined their son Yuri who has lived in Mareeba for the past 10 years. 

Speaking through a translator, the couple revealed they had vacationed in Australia three years ago where Yuri took them on a tour of the country. 

“Our son has been living in Australia for the past 10 years so we have taken a big interest in Australia and Australian life and wildlife,” Valentya said. 

“We visited Yuri prior to coming here this time so we kind of knew what to expect. 

“When we came last time, he took us on a trip around the country to show us the countryside and nature.” 

The husband and wife arrived in Australia from Ukraine on 6 April 2022 and have felt welcomed within the community and are very happy to be here. 

While they are now safe with their son, the couple are deeply worried about their daughter and her husband who are remain stuck in Ukraine and unable to leave. 

“Our daughter and son-in law are still in Ukraine and we are very nervous and worried about them,” Valentya said. 

“Despite the fact they were granted visas, because our daughter’s husband is below a certain age, he cannot cross the border legally and our daughter does not want to leave her husband behind. 

“We would love for them to join us in Mareeba.” 

Centacare has been assisting the refugees, providing a range of services in the Far North with a specific focus on humanitarian settlement, providing support to refugees and migrants settling in the community and helping them adapt to the new surroundings and culture. 

Friday’s morning tea was not only attended by refugees and Centacare but other organisations such as real estate agents, schools, TAFE, local councillors and other services which provided information for the shire’s newest residents. 

Centacare FNQ executive director Anita Veivers said due to the invasion of Ukraine, more and more Ukrainian refugees were relocating to Mareeba. 

“We have had over 30 people arrive specifically from Ukraine but overall in the next month we will have over 100 people coming through,” she said.

“The support we provide them ranges from picking them up at the airport, supporting them into short term accommodation, setting them up with a bank account and medical services. 

“It has been a little bit different with the Ukrainian families because they are coming to family members.” 

Centrecare FNQ manager of multicultural services, Andrea Obeyesekere (left)

Centacare also provides an orientation program for the refugees to inform them around Australian culture, expectations, legislation and whatever else they need to know to adapt to Australia life. 

While there is an influx of refugees, Centacare FNQ manager of multicultural services, Andrea Obeyesekere, said they would not put extra pressure on the housing market as many of them were staying with family. 

Ms Obeyesekere said Mareeba had never seen an influx of refugees like the ones coming from Ukraine and the information session was crucial to help them adjust. 

“There are so many Ukrainian refugees being settled in Mareeba because they already have family connections here and many have agricultural skills,” she said. 

“This session is very important to make people feel welcome and a part of a community they are new to, especially when they are arriving with the status they are. 

“In this region, we have never seen people plucked out of trauma from an immediate war situation and brought to this region. 

“Because of the nature of this crisis, people have been uprooted and their first point of settlement is here in Mareeba - there is a lot of trauma they are adjusting too and it is important to make them feel part of the community.”

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