Tuesday, 19 March 2024 - 11:31am

From refugee camp to Police

4 min read

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File Management Support Officer Fatima Qadami at Frankton Mosque, Hamilton.

This month billions of Muslims around the world are celebrating Ramadan. PHILLIPA YALDEN talks to File Management Support Officer FATIMA QADAMI about her daily routine and how she balances her work and cultural practice during the month.

Fatima Qadami is a Kiwi girl but her early years were a far cry from the typical New Zealand upbringing.

She was born in Al-Tash – a refugee camp in Iraq for political prisoners mostly of Kurdish ethnicity, like Fatima’s parents.

Many of the thousands of people living inside the fenced off and overpopulated camp had been there for 15 to 20 years. They were divided into areas based on their tribal affiliations, with most living in simple homes made from mud-brick.

Fatima’s father would sell and trade yeast, flour or eggs at the local market while her mother would knit or sew items to pay for essentials such as food, medicine and baby formula.

“The political instability in the region and threat of violence made us fearful," says Fatima. "There was a lot of insecurity in the camp, violence, and we had to contend with water shortages and little to no electricity.

“We had little ways to survive; our only option was to leave and start fresh. To leave behind all the heartache and misery we endured and start our life again where we had the opportunity to live freely without persecution.”

In 2001 her family applied to the New Zealand Government as part of the refugee quota, were accepted and migrated, settling in Christchurch where Fatima spent her school years.

After the 2011 earthquakes, her family moved north to Auckland before relocating to Hamilton.

“My family and I work, study, and have a normal Kiwi life - just like any other New Zealander. We are pretty proud to call New Zealand our home.”

Knowing the ill treatment her parents and other family had faced, Fatima studied law at Waikato University, graduating with a degree in 2021.

She joined Police in 2022, working as a file management support officer at Hamilton Central.

“I have enjoyed my job and working with such a variety of people that reflects New Zealand’s diverse society.”

Fatima is also one of the founding members of the Ethnic Support Network in Waikato District.

"Waikato Ethnic Support Network supports all ethnic staff across the district," she says. "The focus is to encourage diversity within the workplace and support new staff by ensuring a smooth integration and peer support for those who may need assistance with Police language and offence codes etc.

"The aim is to foster an inclusive environment for all staff and ensure they are valued; while also helping to build relationships with the ethnic groups in the community." 

Q&A with Fatima

Tell me about your role in Police?

We provide support to police in many of their tasks, whether this be preparing prosecution files, entering vehicle alerts and impounds, liaising with Courts in relation to Protection Orders or assessing 105 reports coming via CRL. There is so much - the list could go on.

I enjoy the banter around the office, especially when working with our rural colleagues, and especially as a Gen Z. I know coming into the office, there will always be a joke about me changing the radio station music.

How do you balance your cultural practices, for example during Ramadan, and work on an everyday basis?

It can be difficult at times to explain certain things. However, I think as time passes my colleagues have begun to understand the reasons behind Ramadan and why I do what I do. Being able to pray and be given space in the station makes me feel respected.

What’s your daily routine?

During Ramadan I fast from sunrise to sunset.

I start my suhoor (breakfast) in the station and my iftar (breaking of fast) in the station. So, my colleagues get to see what that looks like. Traditionally we break it with a date and water, as has been the custom for hundreds of years.

My colleagues have been so understanding when I need to leave my desk for a few minutes to pray and have been accommodating. I have become very accustomed with the visible shock from everyone when I tell them that fasting during Ramadan means I also can’t have water!

How important is it for you to bring your culture to work with you?

My identity is very important to me, as I struggled as a young refugee growing up in New Zealand on how best to identify myself.

I feel lucky that my culture is rich and alive, and that I can share with my colleagues. I love sharing my culture with anyone who is curious, especially since we live in such a technological world.

Bringing my culture with me to work not only teaches my colleagues about valuing diversity, but it also makes me feel comfortable with who I am.