Refugee Week: Sharing stories across community

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Celebrating Refugee Week: Rural Australians for Refugees and Ethnic Council of Shepparton representatives at Nedal Restaurant. Photo by Megan Fisher

In celebration of Refugee Week, Rural Australians for Refugees Euroa branch and Ethnic Council came together on Wednesday, June 22.

The luncheon took place at Shepparton’s Nedal Restaurant — a fitting location, according to Ethnic Council of Shepparton strategic engagement co-ordinatinor Sam Atukorala.

The store is owned by Bakri Tarsha and his wife Noura Sultan, both former refugees from Syria.

Mr Atukorala said their story encapsulated how he wanted Refugee Week to be celebrated, in showcasing the achievements of people in the community.

“If you look at Shepparton, you can find so many success stories of the refugee communities and especially this, this is a very good story,’’ he said.

“They had their own hard journey to come to this country as refugees but now they’ve established their own restaurant and are learning the language, they would do anything to help the community.

“This is one of thousands of stories in Shepparton.”

The event saw members of RAR headed by Ruth Fraser, Mr Atukorala and Greater Shepparton City Council’s project officer Aleena Qazikhil come together for lunch and a discussion.

Ms Qazikhil shared her story to the group of coming to Australia.

Her father was a soldier in Afghanistan and when she was six, he fled the country for his own safety— and his family’s.

After a decade in a detention centre in Jakarta, her father came to Australia and sponsored his family to join him.

While Ms Qazikhil’s story is one with challenges and hardship, she has been reunited with her family and has been able to make a life in Australia — an opportunity she hasn’t taken for granted.

‘’We do celebrate the successes of the people already here at the meantime, but there are thousands and thousands of people actually waiting to come to Australia or to go to another country to actually make their lives,’’ Mr Atukorala said.

“Especially if you look at the people from Afghanistan, they fled because the Taliban took over.

“There are so many other countries in conflict with people who actually want to come and live safely in a country like Australia, so when they can come and when they can establish a life, that’s when we can actually really, really celebrate, but there's a lot of work to be done.”