Two sisters finding purpose together

Alaynah and Arissah are two determined sisters. Despite still being in high school, Alaynah (Year 12) and Arissah (Year 10) are dedicated members of CMY Gippsland’s Youth Advisory Group (YAG). Although they are quite new to the group, the two sisters are enjoying the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

Alaynah (left) and Arissah (right)

Alaynah and Arissah are of a Pakistani and Sri Lankan background but were raised in Kenya. Their mother moved to Australia in 2013 and eventually settled in Morwell, Gippsland. In 2019, the two sisters came to Australia to live with their mum and step-dad. The move came with its challenges, particularly due to a lack of visible multiculturalism and moving to a town 152km from the city.

“It’s kind of really hard to fit in when you’re a fresh immigrant,” says Alaynah. “When we came here at first I embarrassed myself in so many ways. I didn’t know how to properly use a Myki.”

Alaynah and Arissah discovered CMY in a chance encounter. Attending a research project at the Latrobe Youth Space, the two got talking to CMY’s Multicultural Youth Worker, Rebecca Bursell.

After getting their details, the sisters were invited to join the YAG by Rebecca. Alaynah and Arissah joined the YAG in May, 2023 and since then have featured on their Double Standards podcast and have attended events put on by CMY such as a sensory workshop and the recent Eid Festival.

“It’s been good, it’s fun, I like it,” says Arissah about being a part of the YAG.

“I’ve made a few great friends, and had some fun experiences going to different events,” Alaynah says.

“I really like taking part in the podcast. I’m a big talker, I can talk and talk and talk and talk. When I heard about the podcast I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so perfect for me!’”

The two of them love being involved with the YAG but they also want more awareness surrounding opportunities for young people from a migrant or refugee background in regional areas.

“I feel like it’s so important for youth to at least have some form of community,” says Alaynah.

“It made me feel like there was something wrong with me and my culture because I wasn’t like everyone else. I feel like, if I knew about this earlier, then it would have been a big game changer.”

In February of next year the sisters will be involved in a Collaborative Forum, a gathering that gives CMY’s YAG members from Metro, Ballarat and Gippsland the opportunity to present their work to CMY’s Board and Executive Management Team. Although they are still fresh YAG members, Alaynah and Arissah have no plans to move on from CMY.

“I do intend to continue staying here probably until I’m not a youth anymore,” Alaynah says.

Listen to Alaynah and Arissah’s episode of Double Standards: