Zainab Sabri can recall arriving in Ballarat with her husband and three children in 2012 and seeing Lake Wendouree for the first time.
“We fell in love from the first minute and now Ballarat is home to us,” she said.
“I loved the place (first) and then it was the people. The minute we came in it didn’t take long to really feel we were part of the bigger family of Ballarat.”
The gynaecologist/obstetrician and her husband Ahmed Naqeeb, a general surgeon in Ballarat, grew up as neighbours in Iraq.
They married and had their first child while Dr Sabri was at university, before moving to Australia to escape the war.
But the couple could not secure jobs without undertaking additional medical training in Australia, which they did at a hospital in Tasmania.
Dr Sabri now has both her Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fellowship from Iraq in 2003 and her Australian College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fellowship in 2011.
“Having explored a few options, Ballarat offered a job for both of us and of course we wanted to keep the family together because of the children,” Dr Sabri said.
“The amazing thing about this move was it wasn’t a culture shock. We came in and we just met the right people.”
Having come from capital city Baghdad, Dr Sabri said she had been surprised by the amount of similarities she had found in Ballarat.
“We think we’re different, but the more we dig and the more we know about families and family dynamics and how we deal with each other… the more similar we are than we think,” she said.
“Even the weather in Baghdad is similar, we do have seasons and the nice autumn, which is my favourite season in Ballarat.
“When you grow up in such a wonderful place you do miss it and you miss your first home… but I was thinking the other day, ‘maybe that happened for a very good reason’.”
Dr Sabri was the first in her family to pursue a medical career and despite challenges, such as having to redo her training in Australia, the Ballarat Health Services consultant has not regretted a moment.
“I wanted to be different and I felt like I can do well in any field that has personal touch and caring for people,” she said.
“I am the eldest and I have always looked after my brothers and sisters and everyone else in the family.
“Just looking back on all the people I had the honour and the pleasure to be involved in their care and babies, I think I’m privileged to be a part of all of that.”
Ballarat has also allowed the couple to pursue a passion for teaching with the opportunity to train specialist doctors and university students during their rotations.
While their two oldest children did move away to go to university, they have since returned with the desire to settle, work and raise a family in Ballarat.
Because, after all, Ballarat is home.
For more information on Committee for Ballarat’s More than Gold campaign search @morethangold.ballaratstories on social media.