Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Advisory Group guide our work on refugee and asylum seeker rights.
Amnesty’s Refugee Advisory Group consists of courageous individuals with lived experiences as refugees in Australia.
Having overcome the immense and numerous difficulties of escaping their homelands and resettling in Australia, they now generously share their own stories as a way to welcome, support and empower refugees who have and still are experiencing traumatic and challenging situations.
Deena fled persecution in Iraq when she was a child – over the snowy mountains into an unknown future.
“We arrived in Sydney in April 1990. I was 13 years old. It felt overwhelming; I was very happy but also very sad. Everything was different – the seasons; people driving on the other side of the road; even trees in the middle of the road. I couldn’t believe how green it was. Everything looked so fresh and beautiful … And finally, I could go to school.”
Today Deena travels around Australia meeting school kids, civil servants and community groups, challenging prejudice and helping newcomers to settle.
“When you feel connected to community you start to recognise that you belong. Many who come here feel so isolated. I think that the wider community needs to participate in resettlement of people.”
“I feel Australia is my home. A part of me, my roots were imbedded in that country called Iraq. And that whole tree was taken out and replanted in Australia. My roots have started to grow. It takes time for the roots to connect to the soil. But now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I am finally home”.
Arash fled violence in Iran as a teenager, initially travelling to Malaysia where he registered with the UNHCR as a refugee. He was resettled in Australia in 2015.
One of Arash’s biggest achievements has been starting an engineering degree at the University of Western Sydney. Prior to that, his applications to various Australian universities were rejected nine times because he was “new to this country and didn’t have any background”.
“The hardship that I faced, the circumstances that I came through, made a resilience in me not to give up.”
Arash dreams of building affordable houses and giving a better life to people in humanitarian situations.
Prudence is convinced that storytelling can change the world. The former refugee, from Chad, moved to Toowoomba in 2007. Since then she has been Toowoomba’s Young Citizen of the Year, and has founded E-Raced, a non-government organisation with the ambitious plan to erase racism.
“Stories are powerful,” she says. “Fear of the unknown definitely holds people back, but one thing I believe breaks that gap is storytelling. When you share your story, and when people get to know you, they know you for who you are, not what they see in the media.”
“When you see a refugee, you see someone who is determined, someone who has hope. I tell people, ‘if someone like me can come here with nothing, and still make a change, then the sky is the limit and anything is possible.'”
Erfan is a Baha’i man born in India to Iranian parents who were seeking refuge from religious persecution. He and his parents were granted humanitarian settlement to Australia, and Erfan spent his childhood living in Townsville.
He studied a Masters in Communication for Social Change, and after a decade in community development and youth engagement work, he decided to turn his attention to the root causes of social injustice and inequity.
He also writes, lectures, and performs spoken poetry, and continues to use these platforms to advocate for social change. He continues to offer lectures at schools, universities, prisons, public gatherings and festivals across the country.
Growing up as a part of the minority Hazara group in Afghanistan, Najeeba lived with constant fear and persecution. She saw many of her neighbours and relatives disappear, and saw her school shut down and her teacher killed for educating girls.
Najeeba fled Afghanistan with her family when she was 12 years old. Today, Najeeba has finished a degree in medical science and hopes to study medicine so she can give back to the country that has welcomed and protected her.
“I’ve come across a lot of amazing Australians who have helped me and my family settle in Australia and open a fresh life, a new life. Today, where I am, I thank those Australians”.
Mohammad is a Rohingya man from Myanmar. At the age of 10 he was forced to flee violence in his home county. He came to Australia with his family in 2015.
Mohammad is currently a student completing a Bachelor of Civil and Structural Engineering. He is also the Public Relations Officer of his local community, known as the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA).
Community sponsorship for Mohammad is about bringing hope to Australians longing to be united with their families.