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.
Ravikumar Rajadaurai – MercyCare Status Resolution Support Services Case Worker
“While I was away from my home country I always felt homesick and loneliness. I would travel home to Sri Lanka with a thousand dreams and everything would shatter in a couple of days,” Ravikumar said of the journey that would eventually bring him to Perth.
“Shootings, killings, kidnappings would make my Mum panic and she would force me to leave the country. I had to leave the country time after time to save my life.
“The last time I left Sri Lanka I met my wife in the train station and I left her with a heavy heart. She was weeping and said to me that she never thought this beautiful life would end so shortly and that my life was so important to her. I left with tears and continued my journey to Colombo and onto Australia.”
Ravikumar has built a life in Perth drawing on his own heartbreaking experiences to help others.
In a life that has spanned countries and religions, from a Prince’s Palace in the Middle East to his church in Gosnells, Ravikumar has always found himself surrounded by diversity.
As a case worker he has assisted asylum seekers from diverse backgrounds access support and services and integrate into the community while they await their bid for asylum.
“I like my job very much because I meet different people. They often have the same background as me in that they have been through a similar situation – whether they are from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, or Sri Lanka.”
While Ravikumar was born in a “beautiful” Sri Lankan village, his childhood was marred by the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan Government.
As the vicious civil war dragged on for three decades, Ravikumar left his home country first for Malaysia for five years, then for Doha, Qatar for nine years where he supervised activities at the Palace of the Prince.
Between countries he endeavoured to return home, but the fighting made it impossible.
“In 2009, when I finished my work and was heading home on my motorbike, a white van with an armed group followed me. Wherever I went, they followed me with extreme speed and I was sure that my life was in danger. I narrowly escaped and did not go home as I felt my family would be in danger.
“That day I stayed in my Aunty’s house and tried to escape from my country. Several kidnappings and murders in my home town followed after this incident and I always thank God for protecting me from danger.”
He was finally able to come to Australia as a refugee nine years ago, but for the first painful year he had to leave his wife behind in Sri Lanka. It was another year to add to the eleven he had already waited when he was forced to continually flee.
“The first year in Australia was a very painful year of my life without my wife. But it has allowed me to understand many of the people I work with and their family background.”
Raised Hindu, Ravikumar followed his mother’s lead in his 20’s and became a Christian, studying to become a pastor.
He brought that faith and belief in the power of inclusiveness with him to Australia and established a church for the Tamil-speaking community just one year after arriving.
“We have so many people here from different backgrounds… many have lost their peaceful life, they have lost everything, feeling hopeless. We get the people together and we build our own family.
“They have lost many things at home, but they get it here.
“In coming to Australia I have learned and experienced the meaning of inclusion and diversity.”