Sister Diana Santleben
Zara’s House Refugee Women and Children’s Centre
As the 2017 Newcastle Citizen of the Year, Sister Diana Santleben might not need an introduction for some. She is from Zara’s House Refugee Women and Children’s Centre, at 1A Hill Street, Jesmond – the suburb where about 80% of Newcastle’s refugee families have settled.
The centre is a safe place for newly arrived refugee women and their families, where they can connect with the local community, share stories and skills, and learn to speak and read and write – both in English and particularly become literate in their mother languages.
“Our motto is ‘in it together’,” Sister Di said of Zara’s House. “What we do is get to know people. It’s as simple as that. We’re not a big organisation, we’re a group of about a hundred friends here in Newcastle who want to help.” “Because of how we are as Newcastle people, the logical thing is to say ‘how can we make refugees who come to our town feel as though they are welcome here?’ Of course the two challenges we then face are jobs and housing – shared by most disadvantaged groups in the Hunter.
“That basically is the philosophy of Zara’s House, a group of friends with a centre where we can gather and get to know each other and the refugee families settling into the Hunter.”
MEMORIES FROM ZARA’S HOUSE
Presented on 11th October 2019 at the inaugural Hunter Climate Summit (2019)