John's story

“We are a diverse multicultural society and that is one of our strengths, not a weakness. “
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I asked the people smugglers, can you play this cassette for me? 
They said, “No, why should we play this tape for you?”
“Because this is the only thing I got out of my homeland.” I replied.

This cassette holds all my memories. When I was young and things were peaceful and I would listen to this music with my friends.

My family and I belong to the Hazara ethnic community, a minority that has received heavy persecution. We weren’t rich or wealthy, but not everything in life equates to money! We were happy and we are proud of our culture.

At 17, my brother was shot and killed by militia forces and so my father told me; ‘I cannot afford to lose another son’. And so I left Afghanistan to seek safety, left my family behind.

We weren’t rich or wealthy, but not everything in life equates to money! We were happy and we are proud of our culture.

Like many other Hazaras people fleeing violence and persecution, I found myself at the mercy of the people smugglers. We were in a convoy heading towards a boat. I was terrified. I was on my own to reach a safe place. I couldn’t swim and I had heard that there were sharks and whales that would gobble up the entire boat and eat us alive!

I don’t know why, but the people smugglers did play the tape. I will never forget that moment — a great feeling. It was like heaven on earth hear that music. It was feeling of nostalgic. I had so much fear of the journey ahead but also I had hope.

The singer on the tape is Dawood Sarkhosh, a renowned Hazara singer who also fled Afghanistan after his brother was killed. His songs are nostalgic and speak right to my heart. It shows the resilience of Hazara people who have dispersed throughout the world due to centuries of persecution.

Growing up in Afghanistan as a Hazara minority, I never had the opportunity to go to primary or secondary school. This year I will graduate from a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

When I arrived in Australia at seventeen, I was feeling so lonely. I couldn’t speak English so I couldn’t talk to anyone, all I could say was “hello”.

But I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had here in Australia. I am proud of who I have become and I am proud to say that I am an Australian citizen.

Growing up in Afghanistan as a Hazara minority, I never had the opportunity to go to primary or secondary school. This year I will graduate from a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I currently run six businesses and I’ve volunteered for CFA and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. In my spare time, I also give a motivational speech to all sorts of NFP groups, from schools to corporate events, I want to share my story with other Australians. I want people to get to know me as a former refugee, to get to know the refugee story and what we are capable of if given an opportunity to participate in our new home.

Australia is a diverse multicultural society and that is our strength, not a weakness!

I am asking my fellow Aussies to stand in solidarity with me and all other people who came here seeking protection and safety due to war and persecution. If everyone could open their hearts and welcome people seeking asylum then I believe Australia would be a better place for all of us to live.

My name is John, I am a refugee and I am the story beside you.

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