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Veronica O'Brien: Westfield Local Heroes 2018

Treatment of refugees ignites Veronica’s caring spirit

The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has enabled Veronica O'Brien from the Roxburgh Rise Primary School to provide childminding support for the Sawt Al Nissa Women's Group and will be used to produce playgroup equipment accessible for different ages.

This support has enabled women from the local community the ability to attend 'Life Program' sessions, giving them an opportunity for ongoing learning and adult discussion.

Veronica O’Brien’s passion for refugee advocacy was ignited years ago in response to the way in which asylum seekers who travel by boat are treated.

It lit a fire in her that led to her working with refugees in a number of volunteer roles before finding what she describes as a “dream job” with the Roxburgh Rise Primary School.

“It’s just such a wonderful way I can continue to offer support, welcome and a safe space to those who have come to Australia, having survived terrible experiences and are now rebuilding a new life for their families,” Veronica says.

Veronica runs two programs at the school – an inclusive playgroup for refugee and migrant families and a women’s leadership group for mothers.

The weekly session for the women’s group is called Sawt Al Nissa, which means Women’s Voices in Arabic. It aims to build self-confidence and helps the women gain important knowledge about the education and health systems in Australia.

Veronica says the women have embodied the essence of the school’s generous spirit with their kindness, taking on board its “learning for life” motto.

She’s pleased to be voted a Westfield Local Hero, but says the real heroes are the women and children she works with, “who despite all manner of challenges have the courage to turn up and connect with others, show a genuine thirst for knowledge and learning, and share an incredible generosity of spirit”.

“I get to see how much the children admire their parents when I present them with their certificate at the end of the year - these women are showing their children that even as adults you can always be learning and stretching yourself, being so courageous in doing new things," she says.

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.

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