In his Australia Day message for 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described Australia as the ‘most successful multicultural nation in the world’.
Today, Australia is more multicultural than ever before. We live this reality in the food we eat, the music we listen to and, most importantly, the people we surround ourselves with.
And yet, there’s another way this rich cultural tapestry benefits us, which is seldom recognised. They say that money makes the world go round. At this time of year, when we complete our tax returns and reflect back on the incomings and outgoings of the past year, it certainly feels that way. But how often do we stop to connect our financial situation to our history of welcoming people from other countries?
Over the last century, many people have come to our shores seeking help from all over the world. These communities – from the Jewish people of WWII, to the Eastern European, Vietnamese and Lebanese communities that arrived in later years – have all played a part in making Australia what it is today.
Of course, to be a refugee a person is judged on their need for protection, not on the contribution that they might make to their host country, and that is rightly so. But the fact remains that study after study has shown that people who have come to Australia as refugees have made overwhelmingly positive contributions, economically as well as culturally.
The entrepreneurial spirit that characterises these communities is perhaps unsurprising, given the resilience and courage that they have had to show in order to make it this far.
Read more stories of refugee contributions below.
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Stories of contribution
”The hardship that I faced, the circumstances that I came through, made a resilience in me to never give up.”
Nirary Dacho is 29 years old. He fled Syria in 2015. He has a Masters degree and more than eight years experience in IT. In Syria, he worked as a university lecturer and as a manager at the Assyrian Human Rights Network.
However, when he arrived in Australia he applied for over 100 jobs without success. “The main barrier was local experience,” he said.
Not one to give up easily, Nirary decided to do something about it. He set up a website which connected skilled people from refugee backgrounds with companies offering internships or traineeships.
Today he runs RefugeeTalent.com, a burgeoning business matching refugees with jobs. Together with his co-founder Anna, he set up this initiative to connect skilled people from refugee backgrounds with employment opportunities.
Not only is Nirary himself an example of refugee entrepreneurship, but his efforts have made a difference to the lives of hundreds of people from refugee backgrounds, enabling them to start rebuilding their lives and contributing to their new home.
To learn more about Nirary’s inspiring work, visit www.refugeetalent.com.
“When I came here I was a stranger, now I am part of this community, and now I feel part of this society”
Mariam Issa is an author, storyteller, community leader and human rights activist. She fled Somalia in 1991 and arrived in Australia in 1998 with her husband, four children with another on the way.
They set up home in the leafy suburb of Brighton, but stood out as the only non-white family in the neighbourhood struggling to fit in and make friends.
Mariam decided to take matters into her own hands. She opened up her own garden as a community space and invited people to come and visit, to share in the work and produce of the garden. Later, Mariam set up Resilient Aspiring Women (RAW), to build connections between women and create a sense of community. Today, Mariam’s garden is a thriving community hub, where people come to spend time together and learn from one another.
For more information see www.mariamissa.com.au
Mahir Momand is from Afghanistan, where he served as CEO of the National Association of Credit Unions in Afghanistan, Mahir also worked for the World Bank and UNHCR.
Now in Australia, Mahir is putting his considerable skills to use as CEO of Thrive Refugee Enterprise. Thrive provides finance and support to refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia who wish to start new businesses or grow existing ones.
Mahir is dedicated to building the next generation of refugee entrepreneurs.
For more information visit www.thriverefugeeenterprise.org.au
At only 21, Hani Abdile has lived through more than most of us. On her own and only 16, she fled her home country of Somalia, leaving her parents and siblings behind. Her journey for safety took her via Indonesia to Australia, where she was placed in detention on Christmas Island.
There, Hani began to write. She began by writing about her life, partly to improve her English skills. One day she posted one of her poems on Facebook. It was found by Janet Galbraith, the founder of Writing for Fences, a group of people who are, or have been, in Australia’s immigration detention system.
Hani was detained on Christmas Island for 19 months and is now on a bridging visa. Today, Hani is making her mark on the Inner West Sydney cultural scene as an event organiser and poet. She performs around Sydney and is the Sydney facilitator of Writing Through Fences. She curates a night of poetry, The Arrivalists, at Parliament on King in Newtown. Hani has now published a collection of poetry and prose, titled I Will Rise.
Find out more at writingthroughfences.org/
Dai was born in Vietnam and fled the country with her family when she was 7 years old. After spending years in refugee camps, they were finally accepted for resettlement and arrived in Australia in 1979.
Later, Dai would go on to forge a successful career as a journalist and filmmaker with the ABC. She is a passionate community advocate, serving on a number of boards and setting up her own organisation, DAWN (the Diverse Australian Women’s Network).
Dai is a role model to women and migrants around Australia, and has been named one of AFR’s Top 100 Influential Women in Australia.
Find out more at www.dawn.org.au