• Fadak Alfayadh. (Supplied )Source: Supplied
I’m tired of having others tell my story. It’s time I reclaimed it.
By
Fadak Alfayadh

5 Sep 2018 - 6:00 AM  UPDATED 20 Sep 2018 - 11:20 AM

As a 10 year old my sisters and I watched my mother organise the house and prepare us for the imminent military invasion of our home in Iraq. She taped the windows all around the house so they wouldn’t shatter. She bought many bags of rice, flour and shelves of canned food that could last a few months. She even had a well dug in our front garden, as we were sure to run out of water. 

I couldn’t help but think if anyone in the world cared about us and if anyone was going to do anything to help.   

So when we fled and arrived in Dandenong in 2004, my family and I were overwhelmed by the warm welcome by the community and the local school. Despite not knowing how to communicate with them, our teachers in school offered a welcome and an embrace like no other. 

It made the loss of family, friends and neighbours in Iraq just a little more bearable. 

I watched my mother organise the house and prepare us for the imminent military invasion of our home in Iraq. She taped the windows all around the house so they wouldn’t shatter. She bought many bags of rice, flour and shelves of canned food that could last a few months. She even had a well dug in our front garden, as we were sure to run out of water. 

Today I am a 25 year old lawyer, and I’m embarking on Australia’s first ever speaking tour by a refugee. 

I’m tired of having other people tell my story. For seventeen years, the public discourse has been dominated with misrepresentations about the refugee community.

Yet the Australia people have barely heard from someone like me: a refugee.

I believe it’s the voices of people most affected by the issue - refugees - that should be heard the loudest. I believe it’s time for Australia’s welcome to be louder than the divisive and dehumanising story that dominate our headlines.

If people met me and heard my story or from other people like me, Australia would treat people seeking asylum with the decency everybody deserves.

Telling my story to the whole nation is empowering, rewarding, challenging and triggering all the same time.

Telling my story to the whole nation is empowering, rewarding, challenging and triggering all the same time.

When I first started speaking publicly about something so personal, something that was once a traumatising experience, it was a difficult choice to make; my story can be dissected and disbelieved. The Australian media has at times been unkind to other strong women of colour.

But from the sharing of my story with various community groups, journalists, young people, parents and professionals, I have seen the exact opposite.

I have met people who could relate closely to my story; people who were recent refugees or migrants to Australia, people who fled the conflict in Vietnam and people whom themselves or their parents fled the Holocaust. I have met people who are inspired by my story and who want to uphold social justice.

Most importantly, I’m surrounded by people who give time, energy, money and support to this project. People who no longer want to hear from politicians, campaigners or lawyers but people who want to see the human behind the headline, the story behind the numbers and the names of the people affected by policy.

They know that treating refugees with compassion and dignity is an issue of how we display our humanity and unity. They are the people who offered my family and I the welcome and the embrace at a time when we most needed it.

When I was in Iraq watching my mother experiencing the atrocities of the war and wondering whether anyone cared about us, 400,000 regular Australians stood up in solidarity against the violence.

These are the Australians who stand with me today as I fight to reclaim refugee rights and how we are talked about. They are the same Australians that make me proud to be part of the world’s most diverse neighbourhood.

They are the people who my ten-year-old self wished I had had by my side to stop the conflict.

I’m tired of having others tell my story. It’s time I reclaimed it.

Fadak Alfayadh will appear in conversation with Mariam Issa on September 16 in Melbourne. 

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