A much wanted family Christmas
This is the story of Nastaran*, a 40 year old woman of Persian descent, who was born in Iran. She is from a loving family and has a twin sister and two younger brothers. In 1998, when Nastaran was 17, she and her family came to Australia as refugees seeking escape from the violent discrimination against Bahai people by the Iranian government.
However, the story is not that simple. Nastaran is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and now lives with its lifelong impact including years of substance abuse and domestic violence. Years ago, she had two daughters with a long term partner and they eventually had to be taken into care by her parents. Nastaran had supervised contact and knew her children were in a safe and loving environment while her demons played out. By January 2017, she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and entered a 6 month inpatient rehabilitation program at WHOS in Lilyfield.
Nastaran was referred to Stepping Out by her counsellor at Sydney Womens’ Counselling Centre in Campsie in October 2018. Nastaran was attending weekly counselling sessions, as well as several courses to improve her parenting skills. She was clean and sober, sharing a room in a boarding house with another recent graduate from the WHOS program. However, long term it was unsuitable accommodation for the challenges that lay ahead to maintain her recovery and restore her family relationships, especially with her children.
Nastaran’s children were case managed by SSI (Settlement Services International) for years. Their case manager, Alex, could see the profound change in Nastaran and the real possibility of family restoration after seven years. This is “unheard of” in the world of child protection and Alex has worked very closely with Stepping Out to facilitate Nastaran’s momentum. Alex has worked with the whole family on a smooth transition to family restoration while Stepping Out has worked on finding safe, suitable, permanent and affordable housing for Nastaran to live with her two daughters, close to their extended family.
The process has not been a smooth one but Nastaran has showed remarkable faith and resilience by remaining committed to her AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) recovery and weekly counselling. She attends Stepping Out’s social inclusion program every Friday without fail and, last week, arranged a cultural lunch to promote awareness of Persian culture.
Recently, Stepping Out advocated for transitional housing, which was secured through Bridge Housing in Bondi Junction, and her children started staying overnight, so happy to spend time with their mother. Stepping Out then fought hard for permanent housing with three bedrooms, for her and her children. This was challenging as the court case is pending but, with strong advocacy and collaboration with other services, she has finally found a 3 bedroom flat in Maroubra. It is near her parents’ house so family relationships can continue. Her father painted the apartment and her brother-in-law built a fence around the yard so her children can play safely. With the help of Stepping Out, Nastaran has been taken back into the fold of her family and looks forward to a meaningful life as a mother and daughter and a sister and survivor.
Nastaran will spend this Christmas holidays surrounded by her family. Something she would not have imagined possible a few years ago.
With your help Stepping Out can continue to help more people like Nastaran, recuperating, rebuilding and renewing life so it can be the best it can possibly be after a childhood of trauma.
*Name has been changed.