Community Citizen of the Year: The Makings of an Honorary Ukrainian

  • 28 August 2023

When a person is involved in their local community, not only do they positively impact people and place, they may also find themselves with a whole new network of connections, built from a few small, simple acts that make a big difference.

For Irina Bradley, she found herself with approximately 400 new friends, after committing to help those arriving in Western Australia from Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February 2022. The list of acts that Irina has undertaken for these individuals and families is probably longer than your arm – airport pick-ups, food drop-offs, opening bank accounts, explaining superannuation, the purchasing of sim cards and TransPerth cards, finding accommodation and schools, arranging meetups, and providing guidance and support in a new environment where the language and rules are unfamiliar.

“Ukrainians already living here were obviously saving their families, but I don’t have ties with Ukraine, so I could help the people who don’t have relatives here. At the time, there was nobody focused on those people. If you come to a different country without language, it would be so confusing. I could be the person to explain to them in their own language to give them some bearings.”

With Russian as a second language, the Latvian-born structural engineer took it upon herself to be one of the first people Ukrainians would meet once arriving in WA. Since then, people are more settled – they may have colleagues and their children have made friends in school. However, a new Ukrainian community has evolved, strengthened by monthly hikes still organised by Irina to this day.

“I started planning hikes so that people could meet, swap phone numbers and get advice from each other. The early ones were at John Forrest National Park and the Perth Hills, but we’ve since gone to Kalgoorlie, the Stirling Ranges, and we took a bus of 56 people to the Pinnacles – I was so worried about losing people! We’re going to Wave Rock in September for three days and then we’re taking a nine-day trip to Ningaloo and Monkey Mia.”

What might sound like a bit of fun is helping to give these people a sense of stability and community. She explains how a weekend to Rottnest Island with the younger members of the group was designed to give the parents a weekend off, as they have no family here to offer such support. Irina also takes these opportunities for people to learn more about Australian history and culture, so they understand more about their new home.

woman holding certificate and medal
For helping so many Ukrainian people in Perth, Irina was recognised as a Community Citizen of the Year.

With 400 new friends, Irina has countless stories to tell of people who have experienced trauma and the guilt of leaving family behind in Ukraine, but are so appreciative of the support they’ve gained, however big or small.

She tells us about a young girl who believes she is a fairy because of the toys and books she has brought her; and another child whose green bike she was able to replace through a donation, after he had to leave his behind in Ukraine. She also opens her home for people to stay if they live out of the city and need to travel in. It is only later that she reveals she and her husband have had a Ukrainian boy living with them for more than a year.

Irina is under no illusions that it is with the support of her husband and two sons that she has been able to be so committed to helping these people.

“You must have the capacity and time. I took three months off work and once that time was up, I said to my husband, ‘I should go back to work’ and he said, ‘But not everybody has arrived yet’. He knew where I was needed. But make sure you can take that time and ask someone ‘What do you need right now? How can I help right now?’ and see if you can. You’d be surprised how much you can help someone with so little.”

For Irina’s efforts, she has become an honorary Ukrainian. She was also thanked by her community, who nominated her for a 2023 Community Citizen of the Year Award, an accolade she went on to receive from the City of Melville.

Thank someone you know who is helping your local community – nominate them for a 2024 Community Citizen of the Year Award by 31 October 2023 at

The Community Citizen of the Year Awards are proudly supported by the Department of Communities, 9News Perth, 6PR Perth and WA Today.

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