The settlement of refugees in Eltham sparked far-right protests. But locals presented a different vision of Australia

On a dreary Sunday afternoon in late March, the sort that provides a harsh lesson on what Melbourne weather is capable of, a Syrian refugee talks through an interpreter about her escape from the conflict that has torn her homeland apart.

Amena*, who along with about 100 other refugees from Syria and Iraq settled in the suburb of Eltham on the outskirts of north-east Melbourne a year ago, escaped not just endless civil war but an abusive and violent domestic situation.

She is one of six newly arrived refugees who have met in an Eltham church to discuss with local volunteers what help is needed to further settle in, what sort of work they are looking for and how best to practise their English.

Amena says that since arriving in Australia she feels safe for the first time in many years.

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Read More ‘This is my country’: how a Melbourne suburb defied the far-right to welcome refugees

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