WELCOMING ATTITUDE: Viki Koriaty is urging Wagga residents to open their arms to refugees from the Middle East. Picture: Ken Grimson
BORN in Australia of Lebanese parents, Viki Koriarty knows what it feels like not to be accepted inmainstream society.
“I tried eating Vegemite when I was seven, I thought if I ate Vegemite I would be Australian, and I told people I ate Vegemite, but it didn’t make a difference,” Viki said.
A couple of years earlier, in kindergarten, she took a sandwich to her Wagga school for lunch – halava on Lebanese bread.
“Everyone was looking at me funny and the teacher sniffed at the sandwich,” Viki said.
“On my first day of school I was not allowed to hold the Australian flag.
“It made me realise it was going to be hard to make friends.”
From this background of being ostracised simply because of her heritage, Viki is appealing to the Wagga community to be welcoming of refugees from the Middle East who are being resettled in the city.
Viki believes there are still barriers between Wagga residents and refugees that can be broken down.
“Everyone knows there are refugees in Wagga from Mosul in Iraq, who are the yazidis, and there are Syrians coming,” Viki said.
“With these refugees it is important people realise they are coming here because of trauma in their countries and they can’t go back, but also expect them to be different.
“We can learn from them, from their culture, from their history and their work ethic.
“They are humans who want to make their way in the world just like everyone else.”
Viki urged Wagga people to be aware of refugee sensitivities created by traumatic experiences in war-torn Iraq and Syria.
She said one family was gifted a box of food, but it was left on their front step.
When they discovered the box they were frightened.
“They thought the food could be poisoned, because that is what has happened in their home country,” Viki said.
“Before you give them food or ask them to your home get to know them.”
Viki wants Wagga residents to introduce themselves to the refugees.
“Theyare happy to talk to you, they are happy to interact with you,” she said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.