Native Affairs Summer Series - Nau mai, haere mai Refugees

By Iulia Leilua
  • Auckland

It only took a short time for refugee Mohamad Ghannam and his three young sons to perfect singing Tutira Mai Nga Iwi.

The family sing song was a happy moment and made them forget the brutalities of the civil war in their homeland of Syria. They came to New Zealand to escape the horror and forge a new life.

“We noticed that Maori people love people, they welcome people. They treat us very well,” Ghannam says.

Native Affairs met the whanau at the Mangere Refugee Centre in June, when they joined other refugee families from around the world, getting a crash course of living in New Zealand.

The trauma of displacement has touched all refugees. When families arrive their nerves are soothed by Chrissy Addison, a Maori refugee worker who is like the Camp Mother and has a calming presence.  

“I always reassure them, always making sure they are doing alright,” she says. ”Getting them prepared for the unexpected.”