REFUGEE Maryam Gholami has found peace, opportunity and a future in Tasmania.
Now the Moonah 17-year-old, who could not speak English when she arrived in Australia, wants to help asylum seekers at the Pontville detention centre.
Maryam, her mother, two brothers and a sister fled Iran eight years ago after years of being treated badly.
“Because of Mum’s Afghanistan roots we were always treated like we were not equal and [treated] unfairly in Iran,” Maryam said.
“They would do anything to get us out of there and we were there as refugees from troubles in Afghanistan.”
She said as her parents’ life in Afghanistan plunged further into chaos, the family fled to Iran, where Maryam was born, before they came to Australia as refugees.
The Farsi-speaking St Mary’s College student will visit the Pontville centre as a translator.
“I want to support and encourage them because I myself know how difficult it was to have no English and not know the culture,” Maryam said.
“It is frightening and you feel alone.”
Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support Network founder Emily Conolan said many of the detainees had origins in Afghanistan, only speaking Farsi or Dari, and Maryam’s skill would be of comfort to many who could not communicate with anyone.
The support network met at South Hobart yesterday.
Ms Conolan said the number of volunteers was overwhelming.
The detention centre is run by Serco.
Its activities officer Noah Folau inducted network volunteers as workshop leaders yesterday in the areas of cooking, gardening, music, art, sport, maths and computers.
Ms Conolan said the aim was to develop healthy connections for the detainees through workshops which are to start at Pontville soon.
“This will encourage more of them to settle here after they are granted visas,” Ms Conolan said .