Gosia Hill is making a difference amid political turmoil
From post-communist Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa and the Middle East, Gosia Hill has drawn on her ability to network, collaborate and build mutual trust, to make a difference in complex political environments.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian Civil War is the second deadliest war of the 21st century, resulting in over half a million deaths, including more than 20,000 children, since March 2011.
Nine years on, the conflict continues and has displaced around 12 million Syrians and civilians from neighbouring countries, and has caused substantial damage and destruction to hospitals and schools throughout the country.
In her role with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Flinders University graduate Gosia Hill (BA ’83, BSocAdmin ’87) has seen the devastating impact of the war firsthand. The most difficult being the remote refugee camps in Jordan that provide shelter to displaced people from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
‘I witnessed the displacement and terrible living conditions of hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, who live for many years in remote refugee camps in Jordan such as Azraq and Zaatari,’ says Gosia, who worked on developing education and protection interventions for refugees in Jordan for six months during 2018.
‘At the camps and their surrounding communities, where over 70,000 refugee children are not in school, we helped to improve the coordination and resourcing of education programs, with a focus on girls, youth and children with disability.’
Gosia’s work with the UNHCR team included anti-violence campaigns, mechanisms for reporting violence, training for carers and teachers in child protection, and developing support groups.
She was involved in an education awareness campaign for the parents of children with a disability, and the rollout of special education programs in community centres. She also worked on community consultations to inform the content for the Google-funded Learning Hubs for Youth, created to support children’s education in Jordan.
‘These kinds of initiatives improve and transform the lives of refugees by opening up safer environments and more accessible education opportunities,’ says Gosia.
With her UNHCR colleagues she helped to secure funding from international donors to support successful education programs including the UNHCR’s higher education scholarship program.
‘The program was in danger of reducing scholarship places in Jordan from over 150 to just ten per year. We worked tirelessly with the relevant stakeholders, especially the German mission, not to cut the program, and thankfully it’s still continuing today!
‘It’s so exciting to hear the news of each refugee who completes a degree either in Jordan or another host country through this scholarship.’
The impact of political turmoil has been with Gosia for much of her life.
In 1980, as a result of political unrest and martial law in her homeland of Poland, Gosia migrated to Australia. Through a communication black-out in Poland she couldn’t access the papers she needed to apply for university. However, through a chance meeting with the Flinders University Registrar, and the demonstration of her high level of knowledge from her previous studies in Poland, she was accepted into a Bachelor of Arts.
Proving her apt knowledge and abilities, before she had even graduated Gosia was offered a position with the federal Department of Immigration based in Adelaide.
‘I am grateful to Flinders for giving me a chance to earn my two degrees and help me start over as a new immigrant to Australia,’ says Gosia.
From 2004 to 2008 Gosia served as Australia’s Senior Trade Commissioner in Central and South Eastern Europe, with international trade and investment responsibility for 17 countries.
‘It was a very exciting time with several former Eastern Bloc countries entering the European Union,’ she says. ‘I achieved several important trade and investment deals, while avoiding scams and fraudulent activities.’
Gosia is now the Honorary Consul for Poland in the South Australian Consular Corps and, through RedR Australia, she is on standby as ‘Expert on Mission’ for international humanitarian response missions with United Nations agencies.
In May, Gosia began work with UNICEF Suva (Fiji) as part of the Australian Government’s humanitarian civilian deployment program, Australia Assists.
‘My work will involve a great deal of engagement with local communities, agencies and governments in the Pacific. Together we will work on making their education systems better prepared for disasters and emergency situations that can greatly disrupt the ability to learn,’ says Gosia.
‘I believe in the social exchange theory of reciprocity – the success of our UNICEF work and Australia’s assistance in the Pacific very much depends on good networking, collaboration and mutual trust.’
Join the RedR Humanitarian Roster
If you are interested in becoming a humanitarian and want to apply your skills and expertise before, during or after a disaster or crisis, visit the RedR Australia website to find out more about how you can join the humanitarian expert roster. redr.org.au