Ambulance Victoria recognises its diverse staff this National Refugee Week

This National Refugee Week, Ambulance Victoria is recognising our diverse staff and the positive contribution they make to our society.

In line with the theme for Refugee Week 2024 of ‘Finding Freedom: Family’, Ambulance Community Officers (ACO) Lidya Teferi and Emma Qumbri shared their stories of freedom, with a focus on family.

ACOs are first responders, employed by Ambulance Victoria, on a casual basis to work on call and support qualified paramedics in rural and regional communities.

A family of six members is standing in a garden. They are all dressed in matching attire, reflecting their cultural heritage and origins.

Lidya Teferi (far-left) with her family.

Lidya’s story

Anglesea ACO Lidya Teferi is from Eritrea, but due to the civil war her family become refugees in Kenya, Nairobi.

Lidya said while her family was fortunate not to be placed in a refugee camp, it was difficult living with refugee status.

“It was hard as my family didn’t feel like we fit in. My sisters and I were always sticking out as kids,” she said.

Lidya immigrated from Nairobi to Melbourne in 2016 with her parents and three younger sisters. At only 19 years old, she took charge of caring for her family while they settled into their new life in Australia.

“After moving to Australia, I was responsible for everything. I was fluent in English, so I took care of all the paperwork and navigating the processes like applying for Medicare for my family.”

Lidya said that family and caring for others is a key part of her culture and upbringing.

“I had this caregiver role instilled into me from a young age. That’s how we grew up. I would look after my sisters and help where I could.”

Her caregiving nature and desire to help others made Lidya a natural fit for Ambulance Victoria and she joined as an ACO in 2020.

Lidya works at the AV Anglesea branch while she is studying a dual degree in nursing and paramedicine.

She said it was important to break down stereotypes about refugees.

“Some people have this negative view about refugees and that they might be uneducated, don’t speak the language, or may have a lot of trauma.”

“It’s important to remember that each person has their own story and their own journey.”

A female is crouching beside a dog.

Mirboo North ACO Emma Qumbri.

Emma’s story

Mirboo North ACO Emma Qumbri is Hazara – Hazara are one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan and they continue to face ethnic persecution there.

Emma’s grandparents migrated from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Emma was born in Pakistan and later moved to Malaysia when she was around seven years old.

It was a long journey for Emma and her family to eventually make it to Australia.

“My family tried to come to Australia. The boat we were on went to Indonesia, and we were left there for about one year.”

“We then tried again to make it to Australia, but we were taken to somewhere in the middle of the ocean.”Emma and her family spent 23 days out at sea until the Australian Navy found them.

Her family spent a month on Christmas Island and then a year in a detention centre in Western Australia before settling in Adelaide after six months.

Although it was a long and difficult journey, Emma believes it was mad possible because she had her family with her.

“Our culture is very family driven. I can’t imagine my life without my family,” she said.


Refugee Week is being celebrated across Australia this year between 16 June and 22 June 2024. It aims to promote greater awareness of refugees, the issues they face and highlight the positive contributions refugees continue make to the Australian community.

Ambulance Victoria is proud of its workforce that reflects the diverse communities we serve.

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