For nearly half my life I have called Australia home, without knowing if I will be allowed to stay.
Nine years ago, my family and I were forced to flee our country. We left everything behind in the middle of the night.
Just the other day I was at school when my phone went off. Normally students would be in a bit of trouble, but my teacher understood why I needed to have my phone on. It was my mother. She was hysterical and I was so worried. Choking on tears, she told me ‘we got the visas’.
I am so happy. This temporary residency visa means everything. Soon, I am going to have my name on an Australian passport. I feel like I am part of something, that I have an identity and that I am allowed to stay and feel like I belong.
Now I can concentrate on my studies and know that when I finish high school I can go to university to study whatever I choose. This visa means a lot to my mum too because we haven’t seen my sister since we fled. We talk everyday on the phone but we haven’t been able to visit her because our visa didn’t permit us to travel. Now with this visa we can be together again. When we told my sister that we will see her in person again after nine years apart she didn’t say anything at all. She was in so much shock that she actually passed out.
When I started school in Australia I had a really hard time. I couldn’t read or write in English, or even say much more than, ‘hi, how are you’? Fortunately, my fifth grade teacher took it upon himself to teach me English. Studying and ‘being the smart kid’ became my identity. It was a way to evade bullies, to forget the past and it gave me a chance to be optimistic about my future. Towards the end of grade five we had to do the national testing called NAPLAN. My principal asked that I not participate because he thought it would be too hard for me. I argued with my teacher. In the end, I did sit the exam. I got the highest mark in my class.
I am in grade eleven now and law is my favourite subject. My goal in life is to become the Prime Minister of Australia. The first thing that I will do as Prime Minister will be to recognise Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people meaningfully in the constitution. This is their country. I want to work in Australian politics to change things for the better. I want to ensure that we make decisions for others, not for ourselves. Whether it’s climate change, indigenous issues or refugees – politicians should always act with empathy.
I do not want to be judged by my past, my religion or education. I just want to be judged as a 16-year-old with hopes. Refugees have a different path to becoming Australian, but that doesn’t define who we are.
The ASRC has opened my eyes to the possibilities of my future and built my self esteem. Through the years of anxiety and uncertainty, the ASRC made me feel safe and encouraged me to work hard in school so that I can achieve my dreams. Now I am working with the ASRC as an advocate for other people seeking asylum.
Telling my story motivates others, but it also motivates myself. It allows me to see where I was and where I am now. I have come so far, but this is only the beginning.
If you empathise with Mohammad’s story and you want to find out tips and ways to make the workforce more welcoming for refugees, fill out the form and download the resource.
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