• Nahji Chu came to Australia as a refugee. Now she runs Miss Chu, a restaurant with 7 locations and over 100 staff. (The Feed)
Thousands of Australians have a refugee story in their past. Here are three of them.
Monday, June 1, 2015 - 19:30


Nahji Chu, from Luang Prabang Province, Laos, was eight years old when she arrived in Australia as a refugee. Like 94,000 other refugees from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, she arrived here by boat.

"My mother left first with four kids," she recalls. "We headed down to the foot of the Mekong, painting ourselves with mud."

Chu and her family boarded a boat for Thailand. "I was petrified. There was a man on the canoe holding his hand over my mouth the whole trip."

Chu spent the next three months locked in a small cell with forty others, subsisting on rations of rice and eggs.

"Those memories are what form who I am today," she said. "A horrible experience in life can give you more strength than if you hadn’t gone through it."

"I couldn't think of a better citizen for this country."

Since 2009, Chu has created a multi-million dollar business with seven stores and over a hundred staff. It's called Miss Chu and specialises in Vietnamese street food.

"If you love Vietnamese food, you've also got to love my culture," she said. "You need to accept that I came as a refugee."

"Most refugees are exactly like me. They're hard working, they want to do well and they’ll do anything for a leg-up. I couldn’t think of a better citizen for this country."

She laments the current political climate. "The word 'refugee' was a positive word. It meant production, it meant good life, it meant opportunities. We have a problem with the media and the politics of this country, and we have a problem with the leaders of this country. I don't think we have a refugee problem."



Rohullah Hossani, 27, left Afghanistan three and a half years ago. However, his refugee story began far before that – he has been moving constantly since the age of 14. As a Hazra, he faced persecution from the Taliban and other fundamentalists. After attempting to seek asylum across the Middle East and Europe, he then set his sights on Australia.

"I came on a leaky fishing boat, with 75 other people," he said.

After landing, he spent three months in a detention centre. "For three months, they called me by a number. I forgot my name," he said.

"I have lots of friends but I'm living in limbo."

When granted a bridging visa, Hossani was resettled in Swan Hill, Adelaide. He is very happy in his new home, and to feel safe for the first time in his life.

"When I came overseas, I didn't have anywhere to go back," he said. "Not just me; all refugees."

However, Hossani’s bridging visa does not grant him the right to stay. The Refugee Review Tribunal is currently reviewing his case.

"I love Swan Hill. I have a full time job. I have lots of friends but I’m living in limbo," he said. "What’s our future? Tonight or maybe tomorrow someone comes and sends us back to Afghanistan."



Hani Abdile is from Somalia. She lives in Sydney and attends Bankstown City College. She came to Australia during the Somali Civil War, which killed half a million people over two decades.

“The war was not just a fight, it was in front of our houses. It was on the corners, everywhere," she said.

"It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my loved ones, especially my mum. At the end of the day my parents just decided they had better send me somewhere that it would be safe for me to survive."

"Even if it hurts, I have to forget it...life is short."

Abdile suffered from depression after arriving in Australia without family or a support network. She is recovering and makes an effort to focus on positivity. Despite never having attended school or even had pen and paper before arriving in Australia, she is now studying to be a journalist.

"The path I am going down is rocky. But I have to go to university to do my dream career," she said.

"There's no need for me to be sad [about] what happened yesterday. It’s already gone, it will never come back. 

"Even if it hurts, I have to forget it and continue with happiness, because life is short."

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