Monash Health has over 600 hundred volunteers across all hospitals and several smaller
sites, but there is something unique about the 80 volunteers at Monash Health Community
at 122 Thomas Street in Dandenong: Nearly all were born overseas.
Many are refugees or asylum seekers from 20 different countries including Syria, Iraq,
Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar who have left behind promising careers in places
where they were ‘somebody’. They are putting their professions aside for now to give back
to the community that has embraced them, assisting staff wherever possible to create a
high quality patient experience.
The busy community health site would not function in Australia’s most multicultural
community without the team of Concierges, speaking 32 languages between them, who
welcome and guide clients and visitors to their appointments. Others are Patient Visitors,
providing companionship to patients in the Dialysis Unit by talking, listening, or play games.
Some are trained to massage patient’s feet or assist with their exercises, much to the
delight of grateful patients. A variety of teams benefit by their eagerness to help staff with
administrative tasks, or conducting sport and recreation programs, or rehab programs in the
gym. Despite their extensive experience overseas they joyfully help in menial tasks like
packing boxes for the needle syringe program, or summoning taxis for patients.
Over 120 have graduated since the program started in 2014. Most are now working due to
the skills, knowledge and confidence they received from volunteering in Monash Health.
Nineteen are now Monash Health staff! Of course they had to compete for these mainly
casual positions through the Monash Health Bureau.
Jacqui McBride, Manager of Refugee Health and Wellbeing points out;
“Since social inclusion and employment are social determinants of health, the health of
these refugees and asylum seekers is enhanced while they seek to enhance the quality of
care and patient experience of thousands of people receiving health care at Monash
Sai Candiah came to Australia in September 2012 as an asylum seeker by boat after fleeing
persecution in Sri Lanka. Having experience in health care already through Médecins Sans
Frontières (Doctors without Borders), he signed up with Monash Health in May 2014 in the
first group of volunteer concierges at the Thomas Street site in Dandenong.
“This gave me lots of confidence and helped me develop my English skills. I took many
opportunities to broaden my role and soon started volunteering full time, as I was not
permitted to work in Australia at that time.”
After volunteering with the rehab team and gaining his qualifications as an Allied Health
Assistant he recently landed his first paid job in Australia in Monash Health. It is still a
challenge to secure consistent employment but he is on the way to fulfilling his dream of
being a physiotherapist, and taking every opportunity every day to simply care.