Maureen Hurst is originally from Geelong but has been living in Townsville since the 1980s. After retiring Maureen was invited to volunteer to teach sewing and craft to migrants and refugees at the Townsville Multicultural Support Group building.
Throughout her life she has always been interested in community work and in different cultures as her parents brought her up with the ideology to uphold justice and to respect others. Regardless of ethnicity she sees people from different cultures as people just like we are, although acknowledges the fact that Australian’s have been brought up in a lucky country compared to many refugees and migrants who have struggled most of their lives before arriving in Australia.
Her sewing and craft classes consist of refugees from Africa, Asia and South America. The fact that everyone speaks different languages can be a challenge but creativity encourages interaction and people in her classes tend to help each other as they are all experiencing the same challenges integrating into Australian life, and the only way to learn is to help each other. The classes are a lot of fun and people don’t care if someone makes a mistake.
She remembers making little cotton camels with a group of Arab women and seeing an amazing patchwork quilt forming during a patchwork class. She finds it rewarding to see people learn new skills and make something for themselves.
Some refugees have never seen a sewing machine before attending her classes and may be impressed by the technology, although Maureen is delighted to discover the different skills people from other cultures also bring to her class, such as a Bhutanese woman’s unique way of knitting, reminding her of seeing Russian women knitting without needles and using only their hands.
There are many ways to do things and this is something Maureen acknowledges when working with refugees and migrants. Maureen enjoys bringing fun and laughter into other people’s lives who may not have had much joy in the past.
Thank you to Michael Bromage for helping us tell Maureen’s story, this story was made in collaboration with ABC Open: read these stories and more on ABC Open.
Photo by Michael Bromage.