Celebrating refugee success

20 June is a day to recognise the courage and perseverance of refugees worldwide. The United Nations’ World Refugee Day brings awareness to the plight of millions of people living in crisis, displaced from their homes, often by war and terror.

It is also an opportunity to celebrate the refugees who have found their homes in Australia and achieved success, despite the odds stacked against them.

Studying in a new country

Many refugees embrace the opportunities offered by the education systems in their adopted countries, achieving academic goals that are all the more impressive given the obstacles they have overcome.

Studying in a new country comes with great challenges, but as actor, author, artist and refugee Ahn Do says:

There’s only two times in life, there’s now and there’s too late.

VU is proud to give all students – many of whom came to Australia as refugees – the best chance at success. We achieve this through support services, course pathways, special admission programs and a proven commitment to cultural diversity.

To celebrate the contribution of refugees to our community, we offer you some of VU’s inspirational refugee success stories.

Students learning in a classroom.

Recognition for helping others: Athraa's story

"My dad ran a taxi business and mum was a university tutor so we were a very well-established family in Iraq.

"But when we arrived in Australia, they found it difficult to communicate and lost their motivation to work. I had to interrupt my secondary school classes to translate for them and help them fit it.

"I have always just wanted to help others.

"I was thrilled to be recognised as a young leader at the Multicultural Commission's Victorian Refugee Awards."

Read Athraa's story

Person standing in front of multiple rows of seats and a stage. They're holding an award and smiling at the camera.

Lived Experience Empowers Others: Jebbeh's Story

"I grew up in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

"I left my parents and family when I was 18 because of the civil war. I went to the Ivory Coast, then followed people to a refugee camp in Ghana. I lived there from 2002 to 2005. There were no toilets, no showers, no hope - I just lived.

"I arrived in Australia in 2005 - a country I had never heard of."

Read Jebbeh's story

Jebbeh Manubah sitting outside, smiling at the camera.

Success despite the odds: Ashay’s story

“I arrived in Australia when I was 16 and enrolled in an English language school. I then completed years nine to 12 at high school. Given my limited English at the time, I received a low ATAR.

After school I got married and had children; five years passed before I enrolled at VU. I was scared of attending university, but the wonderful support I received gave me the confidence I needed to do very well in all my units.

Read Ashay's story.

A pathway to PhD in science: Ghofran’s story

"I was born in Iraq and I left my country during the Gulf War at the age of 10. I spent five years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia before settling in Iran.

In 1999, at the age of 20, I came to Australia with a young child and shortly after arriving in Australia I had my second child. In 2007 I decided to pursue my dream of having an education.

I completed years 11 and 12, however my ATAR score was low. I was lucky because I was offered a place in Foundation Studies as a pathway course at Victoria University to continue my journey and achieve my goal.

Read Ghofran’s story.

A learning journey to law: Innocent’s story

"I was born in Burundi but fled in 2010 because of political unrest and the murder of both my parents. I was also poisoned, then looked after by United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Kenya until I was given a second chance at life by the Australian Government.

I chose Victoria University because of the good facilities and services that it offers to many immigrants and students from low income families. All my achievements are because of VU.

Read Innocent’s story.

Working in a welding wonderland: Tahani’s story

"I was born in Jordan and lived there for 30 years before moving to Syria with my husband. When the war broke out, we applied to come to Australia and were accepted.

VU has played a major part in my career achievements. A few months after enrolling in the English program, I got the chance to learn welding. I undertook work placement as a fabricator in a workshop that specialises in the generation, production and delivery of three-dimensional artworks.

Read Tahani’s story.

Tahani Shamroukh

Civil war to civil law: Kot’s story

"At just four years of age my family was forced to flee our home. I lived in horrific conditions at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya for 12 years.

I arrived in Australia in 2004 and embrace the opportunities that Australia provides to its new comers. I sought career advice and decided to pursue law. I have gone from learning the alphabet in refugee camps by drawing figures in the soil to being a lawyer at one of Australia's leading law firms and now am a community leader and mentor.

Read Kot’s story.

Ways to help

You can contribute to scholarships for asylum seekers to study at Victoria University - there are several ways to give or donate.

Help provide life-saving resources for refugees and make a donation to the United Nations Refugee Agency Australia for UNHCR.

Sign the #WithRefugees petition, asking governments to turn their commitments into action – and ensure refugees have access to an education, work opportunities and a safe place to live.