Mahdia, 18, could not attend school in Iran because of social and financial barriers. But since she arrived in Australia with her mother and brothers, she has thrown herself into school work with vigour.
“I really, really love going to school,” Mahdia said, “because I had so many barriers in the country where I came from. I love my school, I love my teachers and subjects and I love to study. I like to go to the library to study whenever I can and if I don’t, I feel like I have missed out on something.”
Mahdia was born in Iran, where her family had fled to from war-torn Afghanistan. Attending school in Iran was all but impossible, she said, because of her gender and ethnicity. “But I studied by myself and went to an institute to study English,” Mahdia said. “Then we came here to Australia. We were so broken. We had a lot of issues but we did it.”
Mahdia is now in Year 11 at Holroyd High School and looking forward to sitting for her Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). She wants to study medicine or midwifery at university. After years of isolation from a school system, Mahdia has quickly caught up on her education through hard work and enthusiasm. Her proud mother Fatima said her daughter spent all of her spare time with head down in her books.
But Mahdia’s challenges continue. She cannot afford a computer and she shares a bedroom with her mother. Mahdia completes school work and studies at a library but cannot always access the public computers nor work as late as she would like. “If I want to get to uni I have to have a very, very high ATAR,” she said, “so I have to try my hardest because I don’t have some of the facilities that other students have.”
Despite these obstacles, Mahdia’s hard work was recognised by Auburn Diversity Services last month when the organisation presented her with a Western Sydney Refugee Youth Award for Academic Achievement.
Mahdia and her family have lived in the community for more than 12 months while their application for refugee status is assessed. They have been supported by Settlement Services International’s (SSI) Community Support Program during that time.
SSI Manager, Humanitarian Services David Keegan said Mahdia’s circumstances made her enthusiasm and achievements even more striking. “Mahdia and her family can’t work in Australia while their refugee status is assessed, so they can't afford to support her with many resources, like as a computer, internet connection, text books or even a desk,” he said.
“But she obviously has that drive to achieve that is often endemic in people who have escaped difficult circumstances overseas to find relative freedom and opportunity in Australia.”
SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491, or, 02 8799 6746
SSI Marketing and Communications Manager, Angela Calabrese 0401 284 828