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From refugee to Mater nurse—a reflection inspired by Refugee Week

Monday, 19 June 2017

From refugee to Mater nurse—a reflection inspired by Refugee Week

This week is Refugee Week (18 to 24 June), which aims to raise awareness about issues affecting refugees and acknowledge the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. As part of Mater’s celebrations of Refugee Week, we chatted to Mater nurse Racheal Magot, who reflected on her own experience as a refugee and how it informs her care of patients with a refugee background.

“I was born in Sudan, but had to leave with my family when I was only eight years old. War had broken out and it was too dangerous to stay. We had to leave our home and hide in the bush. Often we had no food,” Racheal said.

Racheal’s family fled to a refugee camp in Kenya, which was home for Racheal and her family for 13 years.

“Most of the time, I was happy in the refugee camp. Although there were occasional attacks from the local Kenyan host community, we were relatively safe, we had two meals a day and I was able to go to school.”

Racheal received a scholarship to attend a Catholic high school in Kenya. She excelled at school and her brother, who had resettled in Australia, sponsored her to come to Australia as a refugee and further her studies. 

“Until I came to Australia, I thought life in the refugee camp was the best that life could be. It was all I had known for most of my life—from when I was eight years old until I left at 21 years old. 

“It wasn’t until I arrived in Australia that I realised how much hardship there was in the refugee camp.

“I found Australians to be friendly and most people were welcoming. I think most Australians are open to multiculturalism,” she said.

Racheal overcame the initial challenges of moving to a foreign land and culture.

“I was away from my support network. I had my brother, but in the refugee camp I was surrounded by a large, extended family—18 of us in total.

“The biggest challenge was the language barrier—not just understanding English but also the different accents. Also, no one could understand me.”

Her priority was to complete a Certificate III in English, and two years later commenced a Bachelor of Nursing to fulfil her goal of becoming a nurse.

“When I was in high school, I volunteered with a local HIV/AIDS unit for patients who didn’t have family to support them.

“I enjoyed the relationships that I built with them, sharing their journeys and offering them comfort and encouragement. I knew being a nurse would offer similar experiences.”

Racheal has now lived in Australia for 10 years, been a citizen for eight years and a nurse for five years.

Her own experience provides her with valuable insight when providing culturally responsive care to patients of a refugee background at Mater. 

“I know firsthand the impact that a language barrier can have. So I ensure that I always engage a professional interpreter if caring for patients with limited English.

Racheal is also conscious of the need to be culturally sensitive when dealing with patients of a refugee or different cultural background.

“In some cultures, people don’t talk about health issues or death and dying. If the person is of sound mind, then I try to respect their wishes, as long as doing so won’t compromise their health or care. 

“I enjoy nursing and I’m thankful for this and other opportunities I’ve had as a refugee in Australia.”


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Tags: Refugee, Refugee Week