Collaborations, cultures, communities

Christchurch Resettlement Services offers a wide range of assistance to refugee and migrant background communities in Christchurch, but to run these services effectively requires the skills and expertise of a dedicated team. One of CRS’ key team members is Melissa Sheehan, a Whānau Support Worker with Integrated Safety Response.

Melissa grew up just outside of Christchurch and attended the local primary school. In her late teens, Melissa was drawn to investigate her Whakapapa, being descended from Ngāi Tahu, sub-hapu Ruahikihiki. After a period of extramural study while continuing to work part- time in the areas of mental health and intellectual disability, Melissa was accepted into Canterbury University full-time to gain her Bachelor of Social Work degree with honours.

Shortly after completing the degree, Melissa started working for CRS as a Social Worker supporting people from a refugee and migrant backgrounds. She describes this work as a trial by fire, as her student placement experiences could not have prepared her for the realities of the position, and the levels of abuse sometimes faced by newcomers to this country.

“Ultimately it’s about working together and relying on one another, because CRS is a family, and there’s tremendous strength in those bonds.”

Melissa has worked in three different roles at CRS during the last 10 years; she has seen some wonderful examples of collaboration between agencies. This collaboration was the foundation of her role as an Earthquake Support Coordinator, and more recently through her work with the Integrated Safety Response team which is working to decrease family harm in this country.

Melissa loves to travel the Pacific and enjoys mixing and learning from other cultures. She also loves supporting and helping the local communities when she can.