Womaneer: Meet the 21-Year-Old Refugee and Soldier Breaking Barriers
Introducing: Womaneer, our new series that highlights and celebrates the oft–overlooked women of our day who are making waves in the fields of politics, crypto-currency, not-for-profit, and design. Each of these women have something in common: vision, grit, and a heavy dose of persistence that keeps them going despite the odds.
These women are proof that the gender gap is closing… that is, if you fight for it. With some guts, you can become the next pioneering voice in your field—a Womaneer. We’ve heard from Australian designer Anna Quan, and now for the next Womaneer in our series, we broaden our scope to Australia's first Afghan female solider: Kbora Ali.
This week is Refugee Week, and today is World Refugee Day. And while you’ve likely read the articles on legislation within Australia regarding refugee placement or watched the horrific tragedies that have taken place on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, this year’s theme #withrefugees, is a perfect moment for us to shine a light on the richness refugees bring if they are given a chance to call Australia home. Last financial year, according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Australia welcomed 24,162 humanitarian arrivals, but behind every number is a unique story of overcoming hardship. While it's easy to stereotype a group of people, Ali is proof that there are so many breaking gender, race, and religious barriers. Scroll on to read Ali's amazing story.
In 2000 my dad came by boat to Australia. He was held in the Christmas Island detention centre for one year before he became a permanent resident. During this period we had moved to Pakistan as it was much safer place for our family. In 2007, we were granted permission to seek asylum in Australia. I was nine when I stepped into the country I now call home.
Migrating to new country was a difficult experience for us all as a family. It challenges you emotionally and mentally however a lot of comfort came with it. We knew this was a place we were safe and could build a life. As for my experience, I was challenged to make new friends, learn a new language, and adjust to a new environment which at the time felt incredibly unfamiliar.
I would say it took three to four years to fully adjust to my new life. Now we have lived here more than 10 years, and it has never felt so good. The feeling of being safe, having freedom and rights—there’s so much opportunity to seize. The challenges were certainly worth enduring. I guess it is a part of the process, everything at first seems difficult but once you have been through it, it all was worth it in the end.
Of course. There is place for everyone here. From my experience, everyone respects each other regardless of your background, gender, sex, or religion. I would say this is particularly because the culture of people here is so diverse—it's so beautiful to be able to connect with people from all walks of life. As a result, acceptance of one another has easily been forged within us all here in this country.
"This country has given us everything, so you must do whatever to give back"
It was seeded in me at young age. I clearly remember when dad used to walk me to school he would say "my daughter, this country has given us everything, so you must do whatever to give back". With this urge to give back, defending this country was top on my list.
I started my education from primary school and loved improving my vocabulary everyday. Within a few months of attendance you could notice improvements in my ability to communicate in English. I went to Pennington Primary School where a lots of students were refugees, hence I was able to easily fit in and connect with them.
Forecast to few years later, I vividly remember most students at my high school had never met a Muslim-background student so it was interesting for them. I was feeding their curiosity with my knowledge of being Muslim and why I wore a scarf. I would say I worked very hard to get good grades as I was fed the idea that my year 12 results determined my future.
I have always been focused individual so I could easily implement that only with hard work I will get the grades I was after. Graduating with my fellow class of 2015, I scored an ATAR of 97.5 with merit in English Pathways, and Dux in: Business and Enterprise, and English Pathways.
I love the fact I get to inspire people to follow their hearts. I never knew following my desires to give back, that I would l make history by becoming the first Afghan female in the Australian Defence Force. Joining the military came with its hardships. I had to convince my parents and the community around me and, truth be told, myself.
At times, doubts that I had made the wrong decision overwhelmed me. However, I love the fact that now I get so many messages and even cross paths with many of my friends who have since joined the military. I have been able to travel across the country and speak to schools, sharing my journey and what I have learnt so far while unlocking new experiences. I also enjoy the fact that a lot of people follow me on social media across the world. We also work closely with the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, therefore you get a good grasp how the services work in conjunction with one another.
I hope to serve as many years as I can. I hope to do my best, inspire people and always share positivity and love wherever my career takes me. As for now I am enjoying the ride and take great pride in serving the nation.
Being able to jump onto Air Force planes and another day finding yourself on HMAS Canberra (a navy ship) are experiences I will forever cherish.
On the exercises I have been to, you get to meet people from all walks of life. At the end of the day it is the people you have spent time with, the memories you have made while being challenged with our daily jobs, you grow together, as a team. One of the best and most interesting experiences would have to be spending a month on a Navy ship. Spending so much time out at sea, you learn new skills and ways to survive compared to being on land. So far, I would say the best experiences have been going through hardships, as with them came life lessons I would have not learnt otherwise. You learn to appreciate the little everyday things we take for granted.
Inspired? Head to Settlement Services International to see how you can help them support refugees.