Welcome to our special series celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in MercyCare’s employees, volunteers and service users. Our stories are accompanied by Steve Wise’s remarkable photographs, that show how these ordinary, yet extraordinary, people are individually effecting change for themselves and the people around them. We hope you enjoy their personal stories.
Godelive Lukunga – MercyCare Status Resolution Support Services Business Support Officer
Godelive Lukunga’s gift with languages has allowed her to feel included in a diverse set
of communities spanning Africa to Australia.
“I learn languages easily. I speak French, Portuguese, English, Spanish, Lingala and Chichewa,” Godelive said.
“I always believe language helps you build a bond with the people of that place. You can have a different appearance physically, but if you speak the language automatically they consider you one of theirs.”
Despite her impressive credentials, Godelive has had an internal battle to recognise her own talents.
“Since I started working with MercyCare they have given me so many opportunities, even ones I didn’t think I was going to get as I already had a barrier in mind.
“I would think ‘I won’t be given this work opportunity because of my culture or where I come from’, but on several occasions, I have been proven wrong.
“MercyCare has that culture of looking beyond your colour, looking to you just as a person, just as Godelive.”
Godelive has applied her talents as a Business Support Officer for MercyCare’s Status Resolution Support Services, stepping up as an acting coordinator. The opportunities, and surrounding herself with those that lift her, has allowed her to feel included and valued.
“You need people that can lift your morale. First it was my Australian case worker when I came here telling me how capable I was, even though I couldn’t see it in myself.
“Now it is my supervisors and managers. They remind me I am special and make me feel like I am worth it. I believe that is especially important coming from a background like mine where a woman is not believed to be good enough.”
Born in Congo, Godelive completed much of her education, including a Bachelor in Social Science, before fleeing to Malawi with her husband for political reasons.
They spent the next 11 years in Malawi. While her husband’s life was painfully on hold, unable to use his law degree to work or resettle due to his refugee status, Godelive was able to use her talent with languages to find a semblance of normality.
“I had spent a lot of time outside the country but because I could speak the local language they considered me one of them.”
In 2010, Godelive and her young family were granted a humanitarian visa to come to Australia.
“For my husband it was the start of a new life, because he had everything on hold for eleven years. While for me I had built relationships and I am a bit reserved, so I really suffered cultural shock.”
Once Godelive found the right support worker she went into a volunteer role, secured a paid role and jumped at an opportunity to join MercyCare six years ago.
While her job covers finance administration and quality assurance, she has been quick to volunteer to translate for asylum seekers from her community when required.
“I had that advantage, knowing the English language, it helped me settle in Australia. Whereas for many of the people from my community where French is their first language, they are still finding it hard to settle into the Australian community.
“Now I feel part of the community. I can even argue. I know my rights, I know I’m Australian.”