Immigration

Day One stories: young refugees who went on to become Australians of the year

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As the Young Australian of the Year is announced for 2015, SBS revisits two previous young Australians of the year who came to Australia as refugees.

Akram Azimi, from Afghanistan, and Khadija Gbla, from Sierra Leone, arrived here as children.

“I remember the first English test I did I failed miserably. Miserably!”, recalls Akram, who is now a law graduate. 

Khadija says that she went to a girls school where there were “600 white kids, I’m the only black kid there. Racism all of a sudden became the main issue.”

But both went on to achieve exceptional things.

Akram was named Young Australian of the Year in 2013 as a dedicated mentor to young Indigenous people. Khadija was the 2011 young South Australian of the Year for her work as a leader of the African community and advocate for equality.

Khadija says that when she and her family told people they were coming to Australia, “people said to us, ‘It’s at the end of the world, where you’re going. There’s nowhere else after that'.

“And that was scary. But we were gonna take our chances.”

Now, Khadija is an activist against female genital mutilation and proponent for Africa to embrace Australia’s freedoms.

“I just want my baby … to find the best of both worlds,” she says. 

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