Community Voices

8 September 2021 | Posted In: #140 Spring 2021, Archive,

Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity celebrating the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Here, three refugees share their stories.

My name is Sarab. I was born and raised in Bagdad, Iraq. Although there are many commonalities to the reasons that refugees and asylum seekers have been forced to leave their countries, they all have very unique lives and very unique journeys. You probably have friends or neighbours who are refugees and it’s a great opportunity to ask them about their journeys if they’re comfortable talking about it. They’re coming here with really rich skills and talents. And if given the opportunity and access to services they can really better their communities, make huge contributions to their communities. I went through the necessary steps to recognise my degree as a teacher. And at the same time I got my certificate to teach English as a second language to adults, from UTS.

I really miss my friends. And I know this may seem like a cliché, like when you leave a place, you miss your friends, but this is a very unique part of being a refugee. That’s like one of our dreams as refugees to just be able to meet up to have a simple chat with your friend — it’s very difficult to do. The more you listen to people who have left their countries for different reasons, the better you’re able to understand them and understand the struggles of their communities.

My name is George — known as ‘Ginger George’. And I am an Armenian refugee from Syria. I had an absolutely beautiful life before the Syrian war started. So my mum said I’m not sending my daughters to school today. It was a motherly instinct that happened that day because that day my sisters’ school has been bombed. There was no electricity, there was no water to drink and there was literally no safety. And that’s when we decided to move. Am I gonna be safe tomorrow? Am I gonna have my life back tomorrow? Am I gonna be able to study? Am I gonna be able to work? Is my family gonna be safe? These questions and not knowing the answers kills you every day.

The first thing I’ve done when I arrived next to the Opera House, I tried to touch the tiles to see if they are real. And when I realised they were real I realised that finally, I’m here — I’m safe. I’m in Australia in the place that I would call home. And I started crying. This colourful multiculturalism, I love it. And this is what refugees look for — just to give back. Because Australia gave us something that we lost. I am studying, I’m working, I am volunteering. I am being part of this beautiful and colourful city. I am in a country that welcomes me and appreciates what I have gone through.

My name is Roaa, I’m from Egypt. I came to Australia in 2018. 18 years old; I’m doing my HSC this year. So, I came with my parents and my sister and one of my brothers. I still have one brother in Germany. We’re still trying to make him come here but it’s really hard. After what happened in Egypt in 2011 and then 2013, we had to move. People who are refugees they go through a lot in their lives, and they have no land to go back to. So they want just to have a land to call home. Like Australia.

When we come here, we actually faced a lot of obstacles. So we’re actually grateful for what we have. But in Australia because there are like a lot of diversity and a lot of cultures, you don’t feel that you don’t belong. You actually do belong here somehow. I’m planning to do media and communications. And if I can, I will do a double degree with psychology. But then a lot of people aren’t lucky like me. My brother isn’t lucky like me. He’s still there, he can’t come, he can’t visit us. We haven’t seen him in a while, like three to four years. I haven’t seen him; my mum hasn’t seen him.

Refugee Week means to me that it’s an acknowledgement of refugees all around the world and their importance. I think it’s very important to acknowledge their intelligence, to acknowledge their ability to work. There’s a lot of refugees in Australia that actually have done a lot of stuff that’s incredible. They can do what everyone can do. They’re part of us.

  • Transcripts of videos — courtesy City of Sydney