From social isolation in a new country to a thriving family

After arriving in Australia with a minimal support network and experiencing isolation, mother-of-five Annina took advantage of opportunities at the local school to connect with others in the community and access the services her family needed.

Through a trusted relationship with Our Place at Doveton College, Annina gained employment, a sense of purpose, social connections, and services to support her family.

Arriving in Australia for better opportunities 

Originally from Samoa, Annina moved to Australia from in 2016 with her husband and five children.

“My husband had heard about Australia, how good the jobs are, how good the education is and how it is great for families. It’s a big opportunity for us, that’s why we moved here,” Annina said.

The family settled near Doveton College, where her three youngest children currently attend. While her husband quickly found shift work at a local factory, Annina found herself at home caring for her large family.

The dedicated mother had not been working as she was at home with her youngest children, did not have a network of friends or relatives and was feeling isolated and lonely.

“I don’t have any family living near us here. I know I have my husband and our kids, but I felt lonely. I was not doing the things I used to do. If I was working, it would have been fine, but I wasn’t.”

Connection with Our Place through the local school  

With her children enrolled at Doveton College, Annina attended an information session about opportunities and services for families, which was jointly organised by the school and Our Place.

Annina took up the opportunity to learn and connect with others with gusto and was quickly a regular participant in activities offered at the school, such as coffee and chat, sewing classes and the food truck.

Through her participation in these activities, Our Place’s Community Facilitators were able to build a relationship with Annina and understand the types of services that would help her and her family. Annina expressed a desire to find a job following her youngest child starting school.

“Because of my kids coming to Doveton College, that’s where I knew about Our Place and how they help with work and people looking for work,” she said.

Warm referral leads to employment  

Our Place connected Annina with an employment advisory service offered by the local council, the City of Casey, who came to the school fortnightly to meet with parents looking for work.

“Our Place was able to help me when I needed it. Referring me to the City of Casey job advocate was amazing. They helped me with a petrol voucher needed to get to interviews as well. Those little bits of help you get, that’s a lot.”

Annina had recently put in an application with Woolworths to work at the new store but had heard nothing back. The City of Casey job advocate assisted Annina by helping her to prepare for an interview while waiting for a response from Woolworths.

Before long Annina was invited to a group interview and was successful in starting as a casual, before going on as a part-time employee, working on the checkout and picking orders for the online area.

More than just a job  

As well as providing additional income to support her family, the job at Woolworths has provided Annina with a sense of purpose, social connections, and new friends.

“I am not lonely anymore,” she said. “They are very nice people and very helpful and supportive as well. That is the kind of workplace I want to work in.”

“The flexibility of the job suits me so well. It’s not far from the school at Doveton so I can drop the kids off on my way to work. It works well for me. It was exactly what I was looking for,” Annina said.

Accessing wrap around support services  

Annina’s three youngest attend Doveton College, where the Our Place team has been able to connect the family to the wrap around support services they need.

We see the pediatrician and wellbeing team at school. These are the opportunities that I am talking about that help us so much. This is the reason we do not want to leave Doveton College. There is help here for us. The children are doing well at school. They are happy to come to school every day. We love the community at Doveton College.


Family achieving through education

The sacrifices Annina has made to create a better life for her family in Australia are paying off.

“We say to our children, we moved here to help you. We came here for good opportunities for you. That’s why we are pushing them. Do your best at school. Work through what you want to do in life,” she said.

Annina’s family is thriving. Her eldest son is completing a Bachelor of Business at Victoria University, the first member of the family to attend university. Her other children are doing well, with her year 11 son planning to attend university, her younger three children are getting the support they need at Doveton College with the help of Our Place.

“The children are doing well at school. They are happy to come to school every day. We love the community at Doveton College,” she said.