Cricket has been something of a saviour for Tamil asylum seeker Uthay, since he came to Australia. Uthay, his preferred name, is originally from Sri Lanka and is awaiting assessment for refugee protection. He is a Tamil man, 27 years old, and the potential consequences for men like Uthay in Sri Lanka are such that his full name and image can’t be revealed.
Uthay lives in Toongabbie on a bridging visa, so cannot work or undertake formal study. He said cricket, and the people he had met because of the sport, gave him things to focus on other than his own circumstances.
“When I came to Australia, I knew no English and was not able to talk to people,” Uthay said. “But through cricket, I came to know many Australians and now I am able to communicate with them. Because of cricket I know a lot of Australian people and they are friendly and now they help me in daily life. When I was moving from one house to another, they helped me move all of my things.”
And he helps his newfound friends as well, on and off the field. Batting at number five for his team at the Wenty Leagues Cricket Club recently, Uthay hit a very handy 48 of the team’s 246 total runs. Uthay plays for two teams at Wenty Leagues, one of which is the Oceans 12 team of Tamil men, which competed in the global Last Man Stands 20/20 competition last season.
Uthay still prefers support from an interpreter when talking to new people, but each day his confidence grows because of his involvement in the community through cricket. His ambition is to study for a degree at university but for the time being is focusing his energies on sport and volunteering.
Uthay is supported by Settlement Services International (SSI) with case management while he waits on assessment for refugee protection. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said cricket helped asylum seekers like Uthay to feel a part of the community they lived in.
“Cricket, and sport in general, gives people seeking asylum the opportunity to be a part of a community and to interact with people as peers,” Ms Roumeliotis said. “On the field they are treated equally, and as people get to know them they build the friendships that all people need for their wellbeing.”