Antoinette Uwera: Asylum Seekers Centre
Antoinette gives back to the community that supported her
Antoinette Uwera knows firsthand that the right support at the right time can be life-changing for refugees seeking asylum in Australia.
“This can help families rebuild their lives and make a lasting contribution to society,” says Antoinette, who sought asylum in Australia after fleeing her home country in 2008.
As a family engagement worker at the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC), she connects families to education and community services, helping them navigate unfamiliar and complex systems.
“When families come to the centre for the first time, they are often in a critical situation and some are distressed,” she says.
But things can be turned around quickly when Antoinette takes the time to listen to their concerns and connect them with the correct local community services.
“Finding the right connections acts like a magic touch, it restores people’s hope so life can go on.”
While Antoinette finds it uncomfortable to think of herself as a “celebrity” and prefers to keep a low profile, she says it is a privilege to be a Westfield Local Hero.
“It is a sign to me that my community supports the significant work we do at the Asylum Seekers Centre and the important part I play as an individual,” she says.
The centre will use half its $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to fund multilingual carers to look after children while their parents attend job, legal and health appointments and English classes.
“This is especially important,” says Antoinette, “because many of the children experience separation anxiety, often the result of past traumas.”
The other half will help fund a school readiness program for these children, which provides financial relief for families who find it hard to pay for school fees, uniforms and stationery.