When Dulce Muñoz and her husband, Gerardo left Mexico for study and adventure in Australia, they never expected to stay and start their family here. But, in the ten years since she first set foot on Australian soil, Dulce has become a mother and joined a community of compassionate women banding together to help refugees through Mums 4 Refugees. Describing motherhood as a ‘citizenship’ of its own, Dulce and her colleagues are fighting for the rights of refugee mothers who, like all parents, simply want what’s best for their children.
Tell me how you came to live in Australia.
We came here intending to stay for only 18 months while my husband completed his master’s degree. At that time we were in our late 20s, married and settled in our lives and careers. We came here for an adventure; we didn’t intend to stay. But my husband fell in love with Australia the moment we landed.
It took me a little while to make sense of such a different place, but when we decided to have a baby, everything changed. It wasn’t a new country for me anymore. It was where my child was born, and I had roots here. My child is seven years old now, and we love calling Sydney home.
How has motherhood helped you form connections in Australia?
When I was 20-weeks pregnant, we were told our child was going to be born with a club foot and would need surgery and special boots to help her. It was a difficult moment. I felt isolated without my mum or friends nearby. I searched online and found an Australian group for parents of kids with club feet. I received an email from a parent who reassured me and told how easy it was to be treated and manage.
It was the first moment I realised the connection of motherhood. How it simplifies things and breaks down the barriers of language or religion. Through motherhood, I’ve developed more social groups and realised how much mothers depend on each other. When your baby is screaming in the supermarket, you know you’re not alone when another mother gives you that sympathetic look saying, “I’ve been there.” Everything changed for me when I became a mother. And it gave me the chance to explore the city more. There are amazing facilities for children in Australia.
You know you’re not alone when another mother gives you that sympathetic look saying, “I’ve been there.”
How did you get involved with Mums 4 Refugees?
Like many Australians, I was upset by the plight of refugee mothers on Nauru and devastated by the image of young Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. I am a migrant. My child and I have the same colour skin as many of these refugees. My circumstances are only different because I came from a safe and privileged background and had the means to come to this country. But these women are living in mouldy tents with sick kids, and I wanted to help. When I discovered Mums 4 Refugees, I joined as a volunteer then and there. I fell in love with every single one of the members. We’re all there to do something, and I decided to commit to this cause.
What does Mums 4 Refugees do?
The group started in 2014 as a group of mothers in Sydney and has grown to have a presence in nine cities and regional communities across Australia. We have over 38,000 people following us on social media. I joined in 2015 and started with fundraising and sending care parcels to asylum seekers. Since 2016, I have been one of the National Conveners, working with some of the best human rights lawyers, doctors and journalists to advocate for refugees.
As a group, we’ve helped to bring over 34 people to Australia from offshore detention for urgent medical care. We are the first people they see when they get off the plane. We meet them with toiletries, pyjamas and other necessities. We also help asylum seekers living in the community or detained in Villawood with things like access to lawyers or medical care, or shopping vouchers. This year we’ve helped over 16 families in Sydney and about 50 around Australia. We work with organisations like Red Cross, Goodwill and Medecins Sans Frontieres to help these families.
I see motherhood as a sort of ‘citizenship’ of its own. Mothers want the best for their children and the country that houses their children, whether it is the place you were born or a new place you’ve come to live. At Mums 4 Refugees, we have members from all backgrounds, 5th generation Australians, migrants, refugees. We are mothers fighting for right where we see wrong. We speak with politicians and community leaders to let them know these policies are not ok. As mothers, we can’t stand by. We are agents of change.
As mothers, we can’t stand by. We are agents of change.
What lessons would you pass to other immigrants coming to Australia?
Give it a year. And relax. Life is supposed to be an adventure. The one thing to me that describes Australians is, ‘mateship’. If they can help you, they will help you. No matter your accent or your skin colour. Mateship is Australia for me.
Describe what your ideal world looks like.
I want people to understand privilege and the responsibility that comes with it. As an immigrant, you have a responsibility to refugees. As a citizen, you have a responsibility to newcomers. When we understand privilege, we can share a more freely, without politics. A lot of issues happen when we don’t understand our privilege.
For more information, visit the Mums 4 Refugees website.
Images credit: Dulce Muñoz and Mums 4 Refugees