Meet our team: Natalija Nesvadba
What is your role?
Manager, Multicultural Services, Mercy Hospital for Women.
What does your position entail?
I develop and implement strategies to ensure the provision of culturally responsive care to our patients who come from more than 140 countries and speak over 70 different languages. I also manage a small team of dedicated professionals who provide a range of services including interpreting, African Liaison and employee training.
How long have you been in this role?
20 months (but have worked in the multicultural field for over 10 years).
Why is your job important to you and to Mercy Health?
Mercy Health is committed to meeting the needs of our diverse population, and this is especially evident in our values of respect, hospitality and compassion. It is nice to work for an organisation whose values align with my own.
How do you facilitate Mercy Health’s commitment to Multicultural Services/cultural diversity?
I participate in numerous internal committees such as the Mercy Health Cultural Diversity Committee. I am currently a chair of the Victorian Hospitals Diversity Network which allows us to work systematically with other health services in Victoria to address the needs of our ethnic communities. I also organise events and training around cultural diversity for our employees.
What’s your story?
Growing up in a small town in former Yugoslavia, I never thought I would visit Australia, let alone settle here and call it my home. I came to Australia in 1995 under the Humanitarian Program for refugees from former Yugoslavia. Prior to that I spent three years as a refugee with my mother and sister in other parts of Europe. We were reunited with my father at Vienna airport on our way to Australia. My father had an uncle in Australia and he was able to sponsor us to come here.
I was not sure what to expect in coming to Australia, and I only spoke three words of English. I never thought I would leave my home and come to the other side of the world. It was all very confusing, as if being a teenager was not difficult enough! We had no idea where we were going. We lost everything that we had built all our lives.
Upon arrival, I started learning English at a local AMES centre. I studied English for 18 months and then completed a Bachelor of Arts in Cross Cultural Studies. In 1999 I went back to visit my grandparents and after one week I wanted to come home. That was the moment when I realised that my home was in Australia. I really like everything about Melbourne: its people, its places, its diversity. I wouldn’t change it for the world.