On the 8th December, the office of TASCS Australia was honoured to receive two prominent members of Australia’s Turkish community. Our first guest, Mr Mustafa Yilmaz is editor and contributor to a number of Turkish newspapers and publications both in Australia and Turkey, particularly Dunya and Vatan newspapers. Our second guest was economist Dr Cahit Guven, who lecturers at Deakin University. Cahit has close links with various ethnic communities within Australia’s Islamic community.
As Society representatives sat down with esteemed guests, interested to learn about them, their work and their community associations. The meeting proceeded over cups of Moroccan mint green tea, as both Cahit and Mustafa enquired about the chronic nature of haemoglobinopathies, and how it affects the communities that they are associated with. Society representatives spoke at lengths about the causes and symptoms of haemoglobinopathies, the methods of treatment and its associated risks, and the challenges in serving those who are affected.
Amongst these discussion points, Society representatives highlighted the correspondence between the presence of haemoglobinopathies in regions affected by malaria, as it is believed that haemoglobinopathies evolved as a biological defensive mechanism to protect against the deadliness of malaria. Representatives then cited that Turkey, and most countries belonging to the Islamic world, have a high prevalence of haemoglobinopathies, as many of these nations were or still are affected by malaria.
Society representatives went on to cite that many of Australia’s new cases of thalassaemia or sickle cell anaemia, come predominately from the Turkish and wider Islamic communities, which are growing due to both local population growth and immigration. Representatives then indicated that the absence of information, appropriate language resources and awareness within these communities, were an immense obstacle to their health and well-being. Further to this, representatives cited concerns raised by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, which noted that the low blood donations from these respective communities, made it difficult to treat their affected members effectively. With reference to our Society, representatives highlighted that even though the Turkish and various Islamic communities represent a considerable segment of those affected by, or are carriers of haemoglobinopathies, their links with the Society were minimal. This is shown by the very few members or donations that come from these communities that the Society seeks to support. Consequently, Society representatives emphasised that the presence and participation of the Turkish and Islamic communities within TASC Australia, is critical for serving their communities and all those affected by these chronic conditions.
Mustafa suggested TASCS Australia representatives should visit the community schools and community gatherings, so as to raise awareness and cite the work the Society conducts. Cahit put forward the idea of stalls at festivals, as well as Iftar Dinner fundraisers during Ramadan, as well as encouraging mosque communities to organise fundraisers and encourage members to donate blood. Mustafa further added, that awareness campaigns and articles published in some of the newspapers he is involved with could assist, as he showed us an article published in Vatan regarding our 40th anniversary gala.
Having discussed this and much more, Society representatives thanked Mustafa and Cahit for their time, and agreed to meet again in future, to develop strategies to further our common interests and concerns. The Society only hopes that things can progress and materialise from these promising beginnings.