In the Broome detention centre, they said, ‘Outside this fence, there are snakes, crocodiles, and kangaroos and if they bite you, you’re going to be dead in two seconds!’ So we were too scared to try to escape. There were 1000 people living in that camp, but it was only set up for 300, so people had to go and live in tents in the extreme heat. Whenever I felt sick, I went to the doctor, and he would say, ‘Just drink water and you’ll be fine’, and I’d say, ‘You know, it’s not a magic potion!’
I was only 18, and I often felt alone. Sometimes I wondered if I had made the right decision to come to Australia by boat, but I didn’t have much choice. My older brother was shot dead on the street by the Taliban, and then they came to our area to take away boys my age to put on the front line, which was a death sentence.
On Christmas Day, I was found to be a genuine refugee. That’s why Christmas now seems so magical to me, because it was a day of joy when I was freed. When they asked me if I wanted to go to Tasmania or Queensland, I asked which one was better, and they said, well, people go to Queensland for holidays, so I went there! But there weren’t many job opportunities.
At that time, I was on a temporary visa and I was struggling – there was no English language assistance for refugees who had arrived by boat, no healthcare, and not very much centrelink benefit – they basically just gave you a piece of paper that nobody understood and sent you out into the community.
A friend and I were thinking about going to Western Australia to work in an abattoir, but we spoke to a guy in Melbourne who said, you’re mad, driving to WA to work in an abattoir – I can find an abattoir here in Melbourne for you! So we moved down to Melbourne. Then a friend found me a processing job in a factory. Now I had an income, I spent it on English lessons at TAFE, followed by a Diploma in Business. Later, I worked as a driving instructor, as a taxi driver and as a real estate agent, before starting my own real estate company, where I employed four staff. I wanted to prove that refugees could be business people and create jobs.
In 2005, I got my permanent visa, and I was able to go to see my family, who had fled to Pakistan. That was a very emotional experience for me. Then, in 2007, I got my citizenship, so now I’m a proud Aussie! Since then, I’ve applied three times to bring my family here, but unfortunately each time the application has been rejected. My Mum died last year, and I feel so sad that I couldn’t repay her by bringing her here to live in peace for her last years. I have always felt a void in my life where my family should be.
In 2012, I did a Diploma in Community Services. I learned so much from that, about how to advocate on behalf of others, about elderly people, women’s rights. Now I’m a part of the White Ribbon foundation, I’ve contributed to the Australia Day celebrations, and I’m a firefighter. I also ran for State government for the Greens in 2014. I didn’t win because it was a labour stronghold, but I got 11% of the vote. I’m proud of that achievement. I believe in protecting the environment, refugee rights, education, non violence, and women’s rights. And gay and lesbian rights – you know its taboo in my culture, but if I follow that, I’m no better than the Taliban.
I’m currently enrolled in a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I think refugees are entrepreneurs anyway – it means ‘taking a risk’ in French.
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You’ve achieved so much! I’m proud that you call yourself an Aussie too. I hope you are successful in bringing your family here to be whole again.
What an inspiration! Australia is lucky to have you! Your perseverance is truly admirable! I wish more people could understand the amazing contributions refugees make to our society.
What an inspiration! Your contribution to Australia is already more than most Aussies give ! I am so sorry you had to go through that transition with zero support from our government. English skills and health care should be given to all refugees
John, what an inspirational man you are- such determination and spirit. Your life story has touched my heart. I’m so deeply sorry about your mum and pray that your family is here soon. What a true Aussie you are! ????????
It’s criminal and inhumane the way this government blocks people from escaping torture and death in other countries. When I first arrived in Australia, there were English language courses for FREE for non-English migrants. Even years later when I was working in a local school and a Chinese family settled (escaped Mao) in our town, one of the teachers was given the task of teaching English to their children. She knew nothing about teaching English as a 2nd language, but studied up fast and got right on to it. It’s not that hard to help people!
I hope many people read your story and see what a wonderful gift to Australia you are. So many people are blind and think immigrants get everything for nothing.
You have made Australia a better place. I admire your courage and determination, and the fact that you are helping others. I hope you have a long and happy life here.
I wonder if these strong people who are given genuine refugee status could use their knowledge and experience to help improve conditions and process for people still trapped in detention centres. I would like to see that story.
Wow, such generousity of spirit, Australia is lucky to have you. Stories like yours inspire me to forget my trivial worries and work harder. I so wish your mother had been here to witness your new life, she would have been so proud of you.
What an inspiration, Australia needs more people like you. RIP to your dear mother, she would have died being so proud of you and the love you have for her will never die ????
Also – new humans of Australia ? Not sure about your company name either !!
Thank you for sharing your story! Australia is lucky to have you. I wish you hadn’t had to face such a difficult journey. Leaving your home is hard enough as it is without being a refugee, let alone the lack of resources here in Australia. More strength to you!
Unfortunately those who could benefit most from understanding what this man went through will never bother to read his story.
We tell people close to us that we are proud of them when they do something good. John, you are a stranger, but with every word I felt more and more proud of you. I wish I knew you and could benefit from your heart and strength. And trust me, if some stranger up in QLD feels her heart bursting because of you, just imagine what your mother felt. I bet she was the happiest, most proud woman to have you as her child.
Wrong, English is taught at the detention centres, it is not compulsory but offered to them! They also receive centre link, very generous benefits and health care. We usually reject old and welfare dependants from entering for reunion, from ALL nations, if the family cannot support them fully themselves, which I think is reasonable for any country. stop canning Australia, and look around!
A survey needs to be done of who is the most productive to Australia refugees or locals maybe ppl will stop being bigots. These ppl have escaped death and embrace life. Facilities were not offered on a plate to them.
What an amazing Australian you are John. Thanks for sharing your story. I can’t imagine what you have been through but this story sheds some light on your experiences. All the best for your future.
And yet there are people in our society who still believe that the standards of these centres are liveable.
An inspiration ! I am sorry for what you have had to endure in your life and I am ashamed of how badly Australia has treated you. I wish for you a very happy future !
Long overdue but I want to say Welcome John! I feel so proud to call you a fellow Australian and I am so pleased you found your way here. Our country and our community is far better off for your presence. Thank you for all that you have done and all that you are yet to do. x
I envy your discipline and fortitude and ability to always move forward against adversity. Even though I was born and bred in Aus I envy your grasp of English as a second language. I wish there there more Aussies like you ????
I agree with you Liz, great story & very fortunate to be able to do so much with his career. But as for asking for donations ? I don’t think so the bùck $$ has to stop sum were.
Thanks Mr John Gulzari it was a great story of your life & journey approximately all of asylum seekers faced or still they are the same situation as you lived & passed but hopefully they are adopted in a new community & culture and also they have created businesses & paying tax & GST to the Australian government
John has lived through some terrifying experiences in his short life, experienced great hardship and heartache, yet has taken each and every opportunity to rebuild his life, and to give back and improve the lives of those around him. This kind of strength of character is what I grew up believing it was to be Australian. I’m proud of people like John. The people who believe that refugees are here to take your jobs or sit on welfare are people who do bugger all with their own lives, who don’t make the effort to improve their own lives through hard work and perseverance.
Certainly Australia is a better place for having refugees like John in it. Thank you John. But can’t help feeling uncomfortable that we need to highlight these stories of high achieving refugees who’ve made such enormous contribution to our society to remind us that others are deserving of basic human rights.