A long and enduring relationship with Australia has inspired a former Afghan refugee to give back to his adopted country as well as his own people.
Qutbiallam Timor is the director of the Refugee Resource Hub in southeast Melbourne. Born in a Pakistan refugee camp, he has worked as an adviser for Australian and US combat teams during the Afghan war in 2012, and has master's degrees in management and international community development.
His work supporting the Australian mission in Afghanistan smoothed the way for his permanent residency but he is still awaiting Australian citizenship.
Arriving alone in 2014, he found "this land of opportunity'' spurred his passion to help refugees. He and his Afghan wife, who was granted a spouse visa, have two children born in Australia.
"I thought I should utilise this opportunity to serve the community. This was my commitment."
When the Refugee Resource Hub opened in Dandenong in June it was swamped. Some 180 refugees presented for a range of services. Ninety-six of them - mainly from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan - sought asylum and support for references, documents and external services, including basic needs. Overall, those seeking help are from a range of war-torn countries.
"There is high demand but we have the capacity to support them," Mr Timor told AAP.
Surviving on community donations, fundraising and philanthropy, the hub provides integrated services.
Under the auspices of Melbourne's Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the not-for-profit refugee hub provides diverse services in areas including health care, law, employment and accommodation, plus food banks and hot meals.
Through its partnerships, it has access to Monash Refugee Health and Wellbeing, and South-East Monash Legal Service and it is planning to engage with more sector organisations.
But its major focus is helping asylum seekers through complex legal quagmires.
Mr Timor, 34, knows the stress and hardship they face.
"My background, lived experience, background in working in the refugee community and qualifications brought me to this position," he said.
Up until 2004 Mr Timor lived in the refugee camp and attended a school supported by the UN refugee agency.
"I did not have an identity. The life was hard because we didn't have sanitation or the right to work other than illegally in the labour market. We had no basic human rights," he said.
"I was very passionate about the work of the ASRC because when I arrived in Australia this was the first organisation helping asylum seekers I was referred to.''
Armed with information about the education system and the labour market, he completed two master's degrees in three years.
"I really trusted I would one day work with this organisation for the community I belonged to and would be living in," Mr Timor added.
The Refugee Resource Hub has seen several iterations: as a virtual centre, a physical building that was decimated by floods and again, virtually, during COVID-19 restrictions.
In its new ASRC building, multiple support services offered under one roof are also the first point of contact for triaging to partner organisations - and its major point of difference compared with numerous other refugee support centres in Australia.
"We are sharing the space with incredible partner organisations including SisterWorks (to help women find work), Centre for Migrant and Refugee Health, the Australian Hazara Women's Friendship Network and the Spectrum Migration Resource Centre," Mr Timor said.
"At the moment, it is baby steps, trying to have more services in the hub, and engage with wider organisations.
"We are surprised at the number of people coming in one month. But not considering that many people have been kept in limbo, they don't have the right to work, most don't have income or medical, no food and they have poor mental health.
"They rely on our services, so this was not surprising."
The refugee hub model has been recommended in research conducted among its users, refugee communities, community elders and sector organisations. The intention, to empower and provide initiative to refugees to solve issues independently and work with the community, is a further distinguishing feature.
Australian Associated Press
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