Until I was 13 years old, the only thing I experienced in my country was war. However, after the Taliban was removed from power in 2001, we had peace for a few years, and many development projects were implemented in Afghanistan. More schools opened everywhere, and eventually opened to girls.
After high school, I studied a Bachelor of Arts focusing mainly on journalism. When I was a child, there was only one TV station that aired for 4-5 hours a day but by the time I completed university, there were a lot more opportunities. At the young age of 20, I was lucky enough to get a job as a presenter for a crime investigation program. I remember the producer told me to wear suits so I would look older! Later, I worked for Tolo News, the first 24-hour news station in Afghanistan.
Four years later, I married an Afghan Australian whose family had left Afghanistan during the civil war in the 1990s. It was an arranged marriage, but it’s one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
When I got on the plane to come here, I was very excited for my new life in a beautiful country, but at the same time I knew it would be difficult because I could only speak basic English. I didn’t expect that I would be a journalist, but I hoped there would be other opportunities in time.
Luckily, a week after I arrived, someone told me there was an Afghan radio station in Sydney looking for volunteers. I went in, and the guy who ran it told me to read a script and a news story. When I finished, he asked me how many years’ experience I had, and when I could start!
At the same time, I started learning English at Navitas in Blacktown, which I really enjoyed because I met people from all over the world in my classes. And after about four months, I went on to do a Certificate IV in English for Academic Purposes at TAFE so I could go on to university. Unfortunately, my degree wasn’t recognised here.
At the same time, I heard that SBS was recruiting for a new program in Pashto, which is my mother tongue. They took me on as a freelance contributor, my first job as a journalist in Australia. I still remember my first job was a very short interview, which I was paid $50 for. I was very happy to get that $50!
Next, I got the opportunity to go to Western Australia for an 8-week interpreting job in a refugee camp. That helped me financially because the pay was very good, and also inspired me to become a NAATI certified interpreter.
I then was accepted into a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Economics at Macquarie University. I chose such a different field because I still doubted that I could get enough work as journalist here. However, over time, I started getting more and more work from SBS with both their Pashto and Dari programs, and later with English programs too, including a documentary on Dateline. Now I have a lot of work!
Recently, we made a podcast in Pashto and Dari for new migrants about how to settle in Australia – all the things I wished I’d known when I arrived, but that I didn’t have access to in my own language.
I am also now in my second semester of a Masters in Media and Communication at the University of New South Wales. I’m proud of my journey, to go from speaking very basic English to studying a Masters at one of the top universities in the world, although I don’t feel like my journey is finished yet!
My wife and I now have two daughters. Of course, it’s important to focus on our children and their study, but I don’t like it when I hear new arrivals say that it’s too late for them to study or have a career, and that they are only focused on money and their children’s future. There are so many opportunities in Australia, and I believe we should all take advantage of that, no matter how old we are, or where we are from.
This story was brought to you by Navitas Skilled Futures. Since 1988, NSF has supported over 300,000 people to live their best lives in Australia, through the delivery of the Adult Migrant English Program and other programs. To find out more, enrol, or recommend to a friend, visit: https://bit.ly/3hA0MlF
Photographer: Anne Casey www.facebook.com/silverpepperphotography