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22 Oct 2014


Young refugees share their stories

There are more than 15,000 young people, aged 12 to 24, from refugee backgrounds currently living in NSW. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said these young people came to Australia with profound stories that should be shared.

“Their experiences are diverse and in some instances have created specific needs, such as mental and physical health problems, that require support from the community,” Ms Roumeliotis said. “But those refugee experiences have also empowered young people to be leaders, and strengthened the resolve of individuals to take opportunities and reach their potential.”

This SSI Speakers Series event will hear from three exceptional young people about their experiences of coming to Australia from Afghanistan and Iraq, and will discuss what is needed to support young people like them to reach their potential.

Sarah Yahya, 19, is one of the three youth speakers at the event. Since coming to Australia from Iraq, via Jordan, in 2007, Sarah has been awarded a High Order of Australia for Community Service, a Defence Force of Australia Leadership Award and Rotary Youth Leadership Award. Sarah has been chosen as an Australian representative at the 2015 Harvard National Model United Nations, and was sponsored by the University of Technology Sydney — where she is completing a combined journalism and international studies degree — to attend. Sarah volunteers at youth mental health service HeadSpace, as well as several other community organisations. She is also hearing impaired.  

Sarah fled Iraq with her mother and sister, to be joined by their father later, because people of their Mandaean religion were being attacked and persecuted. “My sister and I didn’t know at first why we were fleeing,” she explained, “for a long time we thought it was because of the war. We didn’t know that our religion was persecuted. This was good in a way, it protected us, but it made problems in future. When we came to Australia and it was explained about our religion, it made us think we didn’t know who we were or what our identity was.

“Growing up was very complicated. I think people settling in Australia from another country may not realise the challenges – the mental health challenges. That’s why I got involved in my local HeadSpace, because there are people with depression in the community and I wanted to prevent people going through what I went through.”

Asif Haideri will also present at the Speakers Series. Asif is a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan who arrived in Australia in November 2012. In the two years he has lived in Sydney, Asif has developed as a talented speaker known for sharing his story at public events. He is also a Refugee Art Project participant.

Bashir Yousufi, 17, arrived in Australia in 2010 at age 13. In 2012, Bashir represented Australia in Geneva at the Discussion for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, where he shared his experiences as a child in immigration detention. He is Vice-Captain of Holroyd High School, where he is currently completing his HSC, and is on the Student Representative Council. He is the winner of Western Sydney Refugee Youth Awards 2014 – Community Leadership Award.

Following these three opening presentations, the youth presenters will join a panel discussion with SSI Youth Projects Coordinator for Multicultural Youth NSW, Ryan Buesnel and SSI Case Manager Marcela Hart. The discussion, with audience questions, will be facilitated by broadcaster Emma Couch.


Event Details: The strength of youth: young people and their refugee experiences

Date:  Tuesday November 11, 2014
Time: 6:00-7:30pm
SSI Auditorium, Level 2, 158 Liverpool Road, Ashfield
Admission by donation. RSVP:



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SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491 or  02 8799 6746

SSI Communications Officer, Rekha Sanghi 0422 304 578

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