Meet a celebrated law student and a decorated journalism student – Shukufa Tahiri
Whilst the world debates the issue of refugees and asylum seekers at the United Nations and Malcolm Turnbull boasts about our heinous system of offshore processing as a success, it can be easy to forget sometimes that the refugee journey does not end there. Even after the trip to Australia on a boat, even after all that time spent in offshore detention and even after inhumane treatment by Government agencies such as the Department of Immigration, being settled in Australia is still fraught with challenges.
The process associated with the resettlement of refugees is so often overlooked and in all cases drastically underfunded. Refugees who have fled their home country in fear of persecution and in search of a safe homeland often find it difficult to settle into Australia due to a lack of resources and unwillingness of the Government to assist them.
Despite this, individuals who have resettled here as refugees whether young or old, male or female, Syrian or Tamil have thrived and been positive members of our society.
Shukufa Tahiri fled Afghanistan in 1998 due to the violence perpetrated by the Taliban against her ethnic race (Hazara). She initially settled near the border in Pakistan until the violence of the Taliban had even spread there. Shakufa then left Pakistan and fled to Australia and was resettled here in 1998 with her family. Since then Shukufa, despite a lack of advanced education and English, has recorded some extraordinary achievements.
At the age of 23 Shukufa is a student at Western Sydney University where she studies law. Despite knowing little English when she first arrived in Australia she was able to learn English and gain entrance to university to study law and continues to be an over achiever in all her classes. Four out of five of her siblings are either studying or have completed a degree at university. Her youngest sibling is still in high school and plans on attending university. Shukufa has also and continues to be a part of a program developed by the refugee sector where individuals of refugee background speak to students at high school educating them about the issue of refugees in Australia and also shares their personal story and history of being a refugee.
Shukufa works as an assistant policy officer for the Refugee Council of Australia. Here she has been involved in forming policy documents that are subsequently provided to the Government. These policies inform service and funding allocation decisions of Government agencies. Through her role at the Refugee Council of Australia she has regularly formed connections with refugee service providers, made contacts with numerous refugee communities and has positively contributed to a more peaceful Australian society.
Recently she was asked to present at the festival of dangerous ideas alongside leading experts in the refugee sector including; Jane McAdam the director of the Andrew & Renata Centre for international refugee law, Daniel Webb the director for legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre and Geoff Gilbert a professor of law at the University of Essex.
Shukufa has proved that refugees and asylum seekers are people who can positively contribute to society and achieve ambitious goals. She is a direct contradiction to Dutton’s so called ‘illiterate refugees’ and has been a positive role model to so many within her community. Shukufa continues to be a high achiever and as a result has been featured in articles within SBS, ABC, the Guardian and other major publications at the young age of 23. There is no doubt that this refugee will go on to achieve greater things and be someone the Australian community should be grateful to have.
Vijhai Utheyan, BCrim&CJ (UNSW)