Today, 20th of June is world refugee today.
I come from a family of refugees. They escaped mass genocide as the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia between 1975-1979. Over 2 million people lost their lives due to starvation, disease, overwork and for being “enemies” of the regime.
My parents came to Australia in 1980 with just the clothes on their back and my 6-month-old sister, who was born in a Thai refugee camp, just after my mum had managed to escape the border. After arriving in Australia and spending time at Villawood detention centre, my parents started their new life. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to rebuild a new life, in a new country, without knowing the language and with the physical and mental scars of the past still raw and present....It would have taken resilience and courage.
What I do know is that they took the opportunity of second chance. They worked hard. Really hard. They worked hard knowing that without a recognized tertiary education, this was the only way they could provide a proper life for their family. I cannot thank them enough for the hard work and sacrifices they made and I know they are thankful for the opportunity Australia has given them.
On the other hand, I was born, raised and educated in Australia. I am fortunate enough to have so many opportunities available to me and this is because of my family's hard work and the opportunity they had to seek refuge in Australia. To me, refugee day is a time for understanding, gratitude and compassion. Spend the time to understand people's stories, their journeys and their sacrifices. Have gratitude for the opportunities you have been given, we are all lucky to be able to call this place (Australia) home! Also, have compassion for the millions who were/are forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own. Compassion for those who just want to live a happy life like you and I.
The ASRC do some great work supporting refugees and are running a telethon today to raise money for their programs which support and empower people seeking asylum and refugees.