Arif volunteers life experience

Retired public servant and former refugee, Arif Warasata, volunteers to help more recent arrivals in the west. (supplied)

More than 30 years of working in community services and family support in federal and local government has given Arif Warasta the knowledge and experience needed to support newly-arrived refugees to settle in Australia.

And his own experience as a refugee from Afghanistan means his volunteering is informed by lived experience.

The 68-year-old is a volunteer with migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia, working in Melbourne’s west.

“My role is to help newly arrived refugees with translation and interpreting. I speak English, Farsi, Dari, Pashto and Hazaragi from different Afghan communities, so I can help people and provide information about things like banking, Centrelink, Myki and other services,” Mr Warasata said.

“It’s very rewarding work and I enjoy being busy. I am volunteering six hours a week, but I would love to do more and be more active. I’m happy to be useful to the community, especially to volunteer with people like refugees who have vulnerabilities and need help,” he said.

Mr Warasata began volunteering with AMES supporting refugees living in Melbourne’s west – from Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Laverton, Sunshine and Footscray – after retiring from a 30-plus year career in public service.

He arrived from Afghanistan as a refugee more than 35 years ago after the Russian invasion of his homeland.

“I worked as a labourer when I first arrived in Australia and then got into admin and translating jobs in local and federal government,” Mr Warasata said.

“I worked in the Immigration Department’s migrant centre, I also worked in community service and family support. I worked as a case manager at the Telecommunications Industy Ombudsman,” he said.

Mr Warasata’s career took a surprising turn when he was recruited by NATO and the US Government to return to Afghanistan and serve as an interpreter and advisor on a US air base in Khandahar.

“It was very interesting work. My boss was a US general but I was forced to return home to Australia because of family issues,” he said.

Back in Australia, Mr Warasata spent the remainder of his working life at Services Australia and the tax office.

“I retired and then approached AMES about any volunteering work. I started early this year as a settlement volunteer. I love being useful and having some responsibility. I would recommend volunteering to anyone

about to retire,” he said.

National Volunteer Week runs between May 20 and 26. This year’s theme is ‘Something for Everyone’.

To find out about how to volunteer AMES, email: