• Apajok from South Sudan shares what it's like to be told to go back to where you came from. (SBS)
"He called me the N word and then he’s like 'go back to where you come from'. I was just confused because as a child or as a teenager you don’t expect that."
By
Damian McDermott, Presented by
Sarah Malik

24 Sep 2018 - 11:56 AM  UPDATED 26 Sep 2018 - 11:05 AM

What does it feel like to be told to go back to where you come from? 

Three young Australian women of refugee backgrounds share their personal experiences navigating racism and how this has impacted their sense of belonging and confidence. 

For Shaqaeq, whose family comes from Afghanistan, her first experience with being told to go back to her own country happened at school in her art class. 

"This boy comes up to me and says 'go back to where you come from! Why are you here? You are an import'," she told SBS. 

"I got very emotional because at that moment I felt super super vulnerable because I was already being super scared of the high school environment. Everything was so different."

A few years on from that incident in the classroom, Shaqaeq has a new perspective, realising she is not the problem. "Five years later I am actually thinking this was his problem. This is my home. It is my home. I can’t go back anywhere." 

Apajok, whose family comes from South Sudan, says her encounter with racism came while waiting for a train and being confronted by a man on the platform. 

"He approached me, telling [me to] 'go back to where you come from' and some other harsh words," she said. 

"I felt pretty upset. It didn’t really feel like I belonged and a bit confused because I’ve been in Australia my whole life. This is where I’m from. 

"I continued to ignore him and not give him any attention. He proceeded to spit at me and then he walked away."

Go Back Live Classroom Resources
New classroom resource available soon for Go Back To Where You Came From Live for Years 10 to 12 English students.

Holla, whose family hails from Uganda, was only 14 when she was also confronted by a man on public transport  while running for the train. 

"He called me the N word and then he’s like 'go back to where you come from'. I was just confused because as a child or as a teenager you don’t expect that," she said.

"It just kind of feels like Australia is not really your home. As I get older I kind of understand - not everyone has the same heart as you."

Go Back to Where You Came From Live airs over three consecutive nights, October 2 – 4, 8.30pm, LIVE on SBS Australia and streaming live at SBS On Demand. 

Join the conversation #GoBackLive

Related content
Meet Marina, the refugee lawyer going to a war zone with Jacqui Lambie
"There are some things she is taking a hardline on to play a game, but in going on this journey those walls are going to have to come down," she said of Lambie.
How you can help refugees and asylum seekers
Turn that feeling of despair into action.
How powerful images can change our attitudes towards refugees
Apart from driving policy in the short term, do confronting images create change in public perception and willingness to act in relation to refugee issues?