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.
Hadeel Al Taey – MercyCare Early Learning Centre Educator and Room Leader
Hadeel Al Taey has drawn great strength from her father’s respect for his six girls in Iraq, and her own love for her five children in Australia.
“My Dad was a high school teacher in Iraq and father to six girls. In our community they would say, ‘Oh that poor guy, he has six girls,’ but every time my Dad opened the door, he looked at us and he said, ‘Oh thank God, I have six girls’.
“He supported us and stayed next to us step-by-step until we finished our study.”
As a Shiite family in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated and war-torn Iraq, Hadeel’s father succeeded in getting Hadeel’s older sister out of the country. Authorities detained him for a month in punishment, his family unaware of his fate. Undeterred, he returned home and continued his quest to find safety for his children.
Before coming to Australia, Hadeel met her now-husband who had fled Iraq eight years before as a persecuted Shiite, first living as a refugee in Saudi Arabia before being accepted into Australia.
Building her life up from nothing in Australia, she spent the next 14 years raising her five children before deciding she needed to become a role model and financially contribute to their future.
“They need a strong Mum. Someone to look after them and to build their future. I need to support them through university.
“I thought ‘I have love, kindness and care for my children, so I should give that to all the children here’.”
Hadeel embarked on her early childhood education diploma but was initially met with discrimination for her Muslim faith.
“It doesn’t matter what clothes I am wearing, what make up I put on, if I am wearing a scarf – it doesn’t matter, because I am still human. As I respect you, you should respect me.”
When she joined MercyCare three years ago, she found herself in an inclusive and supportive environment.
“Every day I am teaching all the children about MercyCare values, in particular respect. Respect people and understand them.”
Hadeel and her fellow educators celebrate diversity each day through simple activities, from reading books by authors from around the world, to listening to music from other countries that develop their sense of belonging.
“Another educator from India talks about her traditions, the clothes they wear in India. One of the stories I tell them is about my Dad and how he was proud of his six girls, about importance of family and looking after each other.”
With her income Hadeel can now contribute towards her children’s education. Her eldest child has just started a law degree at the University of Western Australia with a desire to support women. Hadeel could not be prouder.
“I try to teach my children to respect other people, support them, give them a hand if they need it. Communicate all the time if they need your help and be the first one who is going to say ‘yes, I am here’.”
After many years away, Hadeel was able to return to Iraq and visit her sick father.
“When I went back, I felt so heart-broken. Here was this guy who used to support us and now he is in bed and can’t move on. It was a shock.
“I miss my family. I love my country but where I can find the peace and safety? I can find it here in Australia. I love Australia too and I can feel myself here.”