Building a pathway in Aotearoa

Published: September 20, 2022

In this story, we hear from Malalai Sadat, a care and protection social worker for Oranga Tamariki Tāmaki Makaurau.

Malalai
Tāmaki Makaurau social worker Malalai Sadat

Tāmaki Makaurau social worker Malalai Sadat has been instrumental in helping Afghan tamariki and their families to resettle in Aotearoa.

She’s been with Oranga Tamariki for nearly two years, but for the past year she has been working on the Afghanistan Resettlement Response.

The program has been an all of government response to the escalating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The response has required Oranga Tamariki to work closely and collaboratively with social and settlement support agencies.
  
"Working for your own people is a great feeling, especially to know that you’ve helped in a really difficult time," she said.
 
The primary concern for Oranga Tamariki has been for Afghan tamariki who have arrived in Aotearoa undocumented, or as unaccompanied or separated minors.

From Afghanistan to Aotearoa

Malalai has had direct involvement with a number of unaccompanied or separated minors, alongside other new arrival Afghan cultural complex cases.

"Almost all of them had incorrect documentation. We’ve had to understand their ages, their background and contact family members in Afghanistan to find out who they are.

"They’ve all been through so much trauma," she said.

Malalai knows what it is like to live in conflict, after her own family came to Aotearoa from Afghanistan in the early 2000s. She can relate to the challenges families have faced having to flee.

"It was a crisis situation when the Taliban took over. It affected everyone, even me, to see my country torn apart."

She’s grateful for the opportunities she has been given here and feels privileged to help Afghan tamariki and their families to build their lives here in Aotearoa.

A collaborative effort

Malalai said that the success of the program couldn’t have been achieved without the support of her colleagues.
 
The work she has undertaken has been a joint effort alongside her colleague, Roya Foroughian. 
  
She has also been supported in her work by Olivia Roberts, Senior Advisor, Tāmaki Makaurau Regional Office; Sharyn Titchener, Manager, International Child Protection Unit; and Legal Services staff – most notably Mele Sagaga, Anthony Dickson and Jerome de Vries.

And the hard work she has put in alongside her team hasn’t gone unnoticed.  

Showing the Spirit of Service

The Afghanistan Resettlement Response won the Te Tohu mō ngā Hua E Pai Ake Ana | Better Outcomes Award at the Public Service Commission, Spirit of Service Awards.

The program was awarded for exemplifying adaptability, agility and collaboration across the Public Service.

Agencies and groups collaboratively worked around the clock to provide on the ground support and unprecedented resettlement services.
   
Malalai said she was very happy to be an award recipient.

"It is huge honor for me to be part of such as amazing team receiving the award. I am very happy.
   
"It's very important when you do get acknowledged as an employee. It’s key for a social worker as we often must deal with very complex situations and families."

The awards celebrate outstanding public sector governance, young leaders and initiatives that deliver great outcomes motivated by a spirit of service to the community.

Acknowledging the journey

Malalai said the response from the families she has worked with through the resettlement process has been fantastic.

"The families are all feeling very lucky to come to a country that gives them so much support.

"They believe in the New Zealand system and are very thankful. We’ve had a lot of good support, especially from the Ministry of Children and MBIE," she said.

Once the response has been completed Malalai looks forward to her next challenge – developing her Te Reo, to add to the five languages she already speaks.
 
"My goal is to build more of my Te Reo and it is something I’m really looking forward to.

"New Zealand is my home now."