Rosemary Kariuki OAM arrived alone in Australia in 1999 from Kenya. She is now involved in various projects to end isolation for many migrant women. Rosemary is also the 2021 Australian Local Hero, part of the Australian of the Year awards.
This is her story.
I grew up in Eldoret in Kenya. I come from a nuclear family of 16 children, 2 mothers and a dad with so many cousins, uncles and aunties. I now have 2 sons and 2 grandchildren who I love so much.
But when I arrived in Australia in 1999, I was very lonely. No one gave me information.
This difficult time helped me recognise that isolation is a huge issue for many migrant women. So that’s why I give information freely and it’s why I work with women – when you empower a woman, you empower a whole village, you support a whole family, you spread information through a whole community.
I work as the Multicultural Community Liaison Officer for the Campbelltown Police. My role means that I can help migrants facing domestic violence, language barriers and financial distress.
I am involved in many other projects on a volunteer basis, like the African Women’s Dinner Dance and the Cultural Exchange Program. More than 400 women attend the annual African Women’s Dinner Dance each year – 2022 is the 15th anniversary of the dance.
For the Cultural Exchange Program, I take culturally diverse women to country NSW for 3 days, where they live with host families in their homes.
It is a lot, but it is worth my efforts when I see a woman who went through bad domestic violence and down the line she is smiling and working or studying – or when a survivor walks into the police station to support other women experiencing abuse.
In the documentary about my work, ‘Rosemary’s Way’, the goal is to bring women from different backgrounds together to experience and exchange culture through food, dancing and national dresses.
I want people to stop living in silos and practice the beautiful culture in this country. I want to see everyone talking to their neighbours, other parents at daycare or out at a local sports game.
I think it’s important for people to do small things, a day at a time, to be the change you want to see in others. You wake up in the morning, shower and thank God that you are still alive.
Go for a walk and follow your dreams and share the love with others by ‘getting to know your neighbour’.
Rosemary also features in the Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe documentary.
Rosemary is a recipient of many awards, including the 2021 Australian of the Year Local Hero, a Parramatta Citizen of the Year, an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) and Community Fellowship from Western Sydney University, among others.