12 December 2022

Now I'm sitting this side and helping people.

Image: Shahid standing with his son, smiling at the camera.

Shahid Burney is a Recovery Coach living in Victoria, Australia. He credits his lived experiences of; personal loss, family crisis, becoming a single parent, mental health challenges and moving to Australia as a refugee as the reason why he connects, understands, and supports others as well as he does at Life Without Barriers.

Shahid and his family fled Pakistan after the government blacklisted his business which was partnered with an Australian. He said that while this business was incredibly successful, allowing him to provide for his family and fly around the world for work, he had to leave everything he had behind to keep his family safe.

Through this, Shahid said his children were his constant motivation.

“It was my strength. It was my thing that they loved me. I have to do something for them. Have to stay for them. I have to take care of and for them.” Shahid explained.

Image: Shahid and his son at his son's grade 6 graduation event.

The move from Pakistan to Australia was filled with “ups and downs”. Shahid shared his reflections on navigating the system, finding the funds to apply for the immigration process, applying for visas, and taking care of his family.

”There is no hope. You are just drained of your power because the only thing you know with certainty is that with every single thing, everywhere is a hurdle.

"You apply everywhere for jobs, but no one answers. When your kids go to school, other students’ houses look different. Their parent’s cars look different. They wear different shoes.

"They are different. And when they come to realise that, they become depressed,” Shahid said.

During this time, Shahid was supported by The Red Cross and Life Without Barriers through Statis Resolution Support Payments (SRSS). He remembers his case worker, Ajmal Chakari, and appreciates the time Ajmal took to listen, understand, and work with him.

“I’m very thankful to everyone, especially Life Without Barriers, for helping me and taking me in."

"If I didn’t have that, I couldn’t have supported my children, so they really helped me a lot.”

With this support, Shahid never gave up.

The journey saw him complete a diploma in mental health, Certificate IV in disability support, and he became an NLP-certified practitioner. His diploma in Counselling is on the way to completion, while he is also studying healing trauma-informed care therapy and root cause therapy. This is in addition to the Honours in Social Work he completed in Pakistan before he left.

“A lot of things are small steps. So, I'm using the strategies that I have learnt, but a lot of it is also my lived experience.

"This lets me understand the person when I talk to them. I see their body language and understand it because that used to be my own," Shahid said.

When asked what Shahid liked about his role with Life Without Barriers, his whole body, face, voice and demeanour lit up.

“I must share my situation with [the people we support] to take them out of their situation and bring them hope. Hope for their life, that it will change."

“When I start working, the time goes by so fast. I enjoy my job and love what I do."

Shahid shared that he understands what it’s like to be unable to sleep or eat because of your mental health struggles.

“How I was feeling, when my hands and body would shake from stress, I understand that in others.

“I can put myself in the person's situation and know why the person may not be ready to talk to me or deny meeting me.

"I understand I was in the same situation."

"They don’t want a call. They don’t want to listen. At that time, nothing was important to me. My life was finished, and I had no hope."

For Shahid, his experience has come full circle. He explained with pride that he is currently working with a 30-year-old man who has PTSD and has been suicidal in the past. Now, they are going on to study for certification in peer support.

“It is my happiness that I'm supporting the people who are in need, in the same situation that I was in before. To know that I can give new hope to a fantastic, handsome, great guy who wanted to die when he was only 30,” Shahid said.

“Now I'm sitting this side and helping people. It is an unbelievably beautiful situation and a feeling that I can serve others and use what I’ve learnt, and give back to the community."

He said struggling with your mental health or having a psychosocial disability is like running with a bag of burdens on your back.

“You take the bag of burden and run with it. It brings you nothing – I lived for 14 years with that bag on my back before I threw it out. Now I am lighter and so is my future.”

On the 6th of December 2022, Shahid took his Australian Citizenship test and passed! Soon Shahid will be able to take part in a citizenship ceremony. We wish Shahid the very best for his future in Australia.

If you are currently seeking asylum and experiencing financial hardship, please contact us. We can let you know if you are eligible for case coordination and income support via Status Resolution Services (SRSS). And, if you are eligible, we can help you apply.

Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Life Without Barriers provides services through our National Immigration Support Service (NISS)

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