Marlene rewarded for dedication to refugees

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Department of Human Services multicultural services officer Marlene Nehme has been recognised for her work with refugees.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Department of Human Services multicultural services officer Marlene Nehme has been recognised for her work with refugees.

MARLENE Nehme works tirelessly with the refugee communities in Griffith and across the Riverina and has now been recognised with one of the highest humanitarian awards in NSW.

Ms Nehme took out the government and legal category of the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) Humanitarian Awards on Saturday at a ceremony held in Sydney, for the work she does with the Department of Human Services assisting migrants settle in Australia.

"I'm very honoured to be recognised by my peers," she said.

"It's really rewarding to help people settle into Australia, to help people settle into the community, and then help them in developing skills and finding work."

Richard Walker, public affairs co-ordinator at STARTTS, said Ms Nehme won the award because she was a hard worker.

"She works incredibly hard and makes them (refugees) feel safe and respected," he said.

"She's the first link in the chain for many people coming into Australia."

"She's the first link in the chain for many people coming into Australia," he said.

"A lot of refugees are coming from places where trusting the government is not something you easily do so she has to work extra hard as a government organisation."

Ms Nehme is one of more than 750 bilingual staff and 70 multicultural service officers in NSW.

She explained that after refugees had been granted visas, she is able to assist people in finding financial help, interpreters and translators, and makes referrals to a wide range of health, employment and community service providers.

She's mostly based in Griffith, but also travels to Wagga, Leeton, Young, Tumut and Cowra, and works alongside various humanitarian settlement service providers to connect newly arrived refugees with government programs and support.

Ms Nehme's work hits quite close to home. Her parents migrated to Australia from Lebanon where they raised her and her four other siblings.

She said it was very difficult coming to Australia at first when you don't have the language and culture.

The STARTTS Humanitarian Awards are held every year during Refugee Week (June 15 to 21) and are run to recognise people and organisations who make incredible contributions to improving the lives of refugees.

World Refugee Day celebrations will be held today at City Park in Griffith.

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