Sousan Hawalla: Westfield Local Heroes 2019
A guiding hand for refugee women
Drummond Street Services
Selfless. Compassionate. Cheeky
Sousan Hawalla is dedicated to helping women refugees and asylum seekers to find their feet in Australia.
She works at Drummond Street Services, where she established a social group for vulnerable women who are struggling to settle into their new country.
The women participate in ten Bright Morning Women’s Group sessions which provide a safe environment for them to discuss challenges they are having with cultural differences, family violence, parenting, financial matters and tenants’ rights.
“It alleviates some of the social isolation and provides a safe environment for the women to learn, ask questions and connect,” Sousan says.
She feels humbled and “a bit overwhelmed” to be voted a Westfield Local Hero by the community.
“The work I do with refugee women means a lot to me. It brings a lot of satisfaction because I can see the difference it makes in the women’s lives, particularly the newly arrived ones.”
Sousan understands what it is like to start again as she escaped civil war in Lebanon and arrived in Australia when she was just ten years old.
“The women find it really helpful to have someone who speaks their language, somebody from the same culture who can actually answer some of their questions.”
With Sousan by their side, some women have found the courage to attend court after experiencing family violence. Through the group, the women become financially literate and have learned to embrace rights many have not enjoyed before.
“One woman had never been shopping on her own before. She felt empowered after she started shopping by herself," says Sousan.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. Drummond Street Services will use its grant to fund skills and employment training for the women and help the group to run on an ongoing basis.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.