Beautiful, poignant proof that you can never know somebody’s story just by looking at them.
“12 years ago, I was kidnapped.”
“My cousin and I were separated because we were put into 2 different jeeps, and I have never seen him since.”
“Nobody wanted to talk to my sister and I, and they would say they couldn’t believe we were still going out in public.”
These are some of the remarkable stories being documented by a new Facebook page that’s been “liked” by 30,000 Australians in just four weeks.
The page, New Humans of Australia, is dedicated to celebrating the voices of refugees and migrants who call Australia home. Inspired by the hugely popular Humans of New York, the initiative posts beautiful photos of its subjects alongside their personal stories: Stories of struggle, stories of migration and stories of triumph.
Here are just some of the tales shared on the page:
Roda from Ogaden, who has lived here eight years:
When I first came to Sydney and I didn’t speak English that well, my friend who lives in Melbourne said to me, ‘You should move down to Melbourne. In Sydney, the boredom will kill you.’ But there are people who live between Kenya and Ethiopia who are called ‘Booran’, and I thought she was saying, ‘In Sydney, the Booran will kill you.’ After that, whenever I went down the street, I was looking over my shoulder.
Hassan from Afghanistan, who has been here 16 years:
I came here in 1999, at the age of 17, by myself, without any family. My father was killed by the Taliban. Then, one day, the Taliban came to our village and took my older brother away. The only reason they didn’t get me was because I was visiting my uncle that day. My uncle was very worried about our safety, so he took me and my cousin and hid us in the mountains for a day, then he put us in a jeep with some men and we were taken to Pakistan. At the border, my cousin and I were separated because we were put into 2 different jeeps, and I have never seen him since. We still don’t know what happened to him.
From Pakistan, we flew to Indonesia, where we got on a boat to Australia. It was very strange and risky – I’d never seen the ocean before, I’d never even left my village before. At one point the waves were so huge, I had to tie myself to the boat with my shirt so I wouldn’t fall in. We spent 11 nights on the boat, and I was sick the whole time….
After I was released from the detention centre, I got a Temporary Protection Visa… I started to work in a supermarket. I only got paid $260 every week because I was underage, but I was happy. Then later on I moved to a restaurant. I started as a dishwasher, then I moved to making salads, then to dessert maker, then to chef, and finally to manager of two restaurants. After 6 years, I finally got my permanent residency.
Each time I remember all my past, I feel very emotional. I don’t know how I did it, at 17 years old. But I’m so grateful to Australia for helping me, and I feel so lucky.
Laure-Elise France 1.5 years Tasos Greece 1.5 years:
I’m doing my PhD in Human Geography and he’s doing his PhD in Medical Physics. But we met in a salsa class.
Saira from Pakistan, who has been here five years:
Twelve years ago, I was kidnapped in Pakistan. Even though it was a long time ago, it still feels like yesterday to me… We were all put in a dark room with just one mattress in the corner. It was so cold, below zero every day. And we were so worried. One day I tried to escape over the wall at the back, but they caught me. They showed me bullet holes in the wall, and said if I tried to escape again they would kill me. Then they took me to another room, where they took down all my family’s details, and said, ‘If we find out you have contacted someone, your family are going to die.’
…What happened when I was kidnapped was bad, but what happened in the community when I got back was terrible. Nowadays, terrorism is common, but at that time, our kidnapping was the first incident in Pakistan that had involved women. So nobody wanted to talk to my sister and I, and they would say they couldn’t believe we were still going out in public. Even my friends stopped talking to me, and stopped coming to my house.
Bich Thuy from Vietnam, who has been here for 25 years:
I was a journalist in Vietnam, but when I arrived here, I worked in a chicken factory. Even though I worked long hours and I was paid very little, I felt lucky because I had a chance to start a new life for me and my children, and I knew the way to do that was through education. For years, I worked during the day and studied at night. First I had to learn English, then I took a Foundation Studies course, then I did my diploma in Community Services. Eleven years later, my dream finally came true and I got a professional job again. I’ve been working here for 14 years now.
As debates over the Syrian refugee crisis and Australia’s cruel mandatory detention policy rage on, New Humans of Australia is a timely reminder that migrants and refugees can contribute in diverse, rich ways to our country — and that each and every refugee has a powerful story worth listening to.
Visit the New Humans of Australia Facebook page here.