I am from the Sayed denomination in the Hazara group in Afghanistan – a minority within a minority. We are actually one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world. In our tribe, my family were very well respected, and that was both our strength and our weakness, as unfortunately my parents were even more persecuted because we were more visible.

When I was 6, we had to flee to Pakistan because my parents' lives were in danger. But even there we weren't truly safe, so my father decided to make the journey from Indonesia to Australia by boat. He survived the journey, and 5 years later, he was able to bring the rest of us to Australia.

When I saw my father waiting for us at the gate at Sydney Airport, I felt such joy to finally see him again. Our whole family just ran together into a big group hug! I remember it was raining outside, and I had this feeling that it was a renewal of life. It was really emotional.

Back in Pakistan, I was always an academic person, and I had actually received 17 trophies by the time I left. But when I started studying in Australia, it wasn't so easy as I had to learn English! Still, at the end of my first year, I also received a trophy, and at that moment, I felt reconnected with my past for the first time. It was a real turning point for me.

As I grew older, I always thought I would one day be a doctor, but when I did my work experience at a hospital, I actually fainted the first time I saw blood. So I chose Law and Journalism instead!

Now I’m a practicing corporate lawyer. Over the years, I have noticed a huge deficiency in real, authentic celebrations of culture in the corporate world. As a result, I am currently setting up a social enterprise that brings culture to the corporate world by, for example, connecting an Afghan food business that is thriving in the outer suburbs to do the catering for a corporate event in the city. This type of connection can not only support local small businesses, but also encourages awareness in the corporate world of the people behind the food, and their different cultures.

My family came to Australia and spring-boarded into a new life full of opportunities. My brother was the first person in the world from our tribe to go to uni. And I am the first lawyer. As we are from a village, the transition has been dramatic.

Now my personal mantra in life is to give back to others in this country. I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had as a person who arrived in Australia with nothing, and I feel the least I can do is to lend a hand to those small businesses that are just trying to make a good life for themselves.

Arrived 2005

Photographer: Simone Cheung Photography

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