Refugee entrants are ordinary people who have lived through extraordinary circumstances. Many people in the SCARF community have stories of unimaginable hardship and loss to tell. But in equal amounts, we hear stories of resilience, hope and triumph, as well as experiences and anecdotes from across the spectrum of life.
It is important to understand that while refugee entrants share common experiences – fleeing home, rebuilding in Australia, finding belonging – each person’s story is unique, and their identities expand far beyond their refugee journey.
Each story has been kindly shared with us by people from within the SCARF community.
SCARF, individuals from the SCARF community, and Sarah Pulling of Bear Hunt Photography, have collaborated to produce ‘The More You Know’: a series of photo essays featuring people from refugee backgrounds living in the Illawarra.
"The beginning of my journey when I started year 11, I was excited to study and reach out to my dreams, but somehow it was so difficult for someone who speaks two languages and needed to study with a new language. I kept suffering but continued because I believed in myself and in my dream. Here I am after 2 years, I graduated from high school now with excellent marks."
"For the first month in Australia I was very happy, but when we needed paperwork, to speak English, to buy something, find job, or to pay bills, it was very hard. There was a lot of paperwork. Some letters arrived in the mailbox but we couldn’t understand them."
"Language has been the most difficult challenge of living in Australia. My family and I speak Arabic. Leaving family behind in Syria and Lebanon has been very sad and hard. Everything is a challenge when coming to a new country and a new life. Now I’m studying English Language at TAFE Illawarra. Just recently, I have also gained part-time employment with the Department of Education."
"In 2005, I arrived in Australia with five young children on my own. Even though life seem to improved immediately, there were many challenges for me as a single mother, in a far away land where almost everything appeared strange. For example, you can imagine that a woman with no prior lunch box idea; standing in the supermarket, trying to work out appropriate lunch box items was quite daunting."
"Growing up in Australia as a refugee teenage girl, I felt very different from other people. I was different in the way I look, the way I behave, the way I dress, the way I speak and many more, I felt less confident in myself. In school, I was worried if the other students would accept and understood me for who I was. I didn’t know how to begin to explain to them that I was different from them."
"I had to leave Iraq because I had war in my country. I’m also a journalist, so that’s very big trouble. I didn’t have safety. After one month in Australia, I came to SCARF. The language is very hard for me, so I can’t find a job, I can’t study. I need more time for that. The first thing is language, then after that I can make everything I want. I can find a job, I can study. I want to go very far."
My parents were born in Afghanistan but forced to flee because of the Revolution - my father was a politician, on the opposing side. My uncle was shot for his political beliefs and later died. My parents felt safe and comfortable in Iran in the 1970s under the rule of the Shah of Iran. My 4 younger sisters and I were born in Kharaj, 2 hours from Tehran. But under the new government of Ayatollah Khomeini, everything changed for our family."
"[in the refugee camp] you don’t know where you’re going, and you don’t know where you are, just living a life without any future. I lived in the camp on my own for 5 years.... I reached Australia in February 2015. When I reached Wollongong I came to Tafe doing English. After that I wanted to pursue my career – It’s never too late. The past is just the past, now we are in present. We need to go forward and not backward."
Learn more about SCARF’s programs
Hear about how you can support SCARF
Learn more about Who We Are