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Refugee achievements recognised in annual awards

23 June 20220 comments

Some of Victoria’s most inspirational refugees and asylum seekers were honoured for their achievements at an awards ceremony held during Refugee Week.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence and Victorian Multicultural Commission Chairperson Vivienne Nguyen honoured 14 recipients of the 2022 Victorian Refugee Awards at a ceremony at the State Library of Victoria.

Eleven recipients from last year were also recognised as they were unable to receive their wards because of COVID lockdowns.

The awards recognise Victorians who excel through study, work, entrepreneurship or volunteering, including those who own or run businesses or organisations that support others with refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds.

They were presented across four categories: Young Leader, Achievement, Leadership and Business. Each award showcasing the talent and accomplishments of finalists that have made an important contribution to our community.

A recipient of a Leadership award was Homaira Mershedi, a supporter and volunteer with settlement agency AMES Australia.

Homaira was recognised for her work marshalling support among the local Afghan community to help Afghans arriving in Melbourne as part of the airlift out of Kabul after the fall of the country to the Taliban.

She and her group produced thousands of hot and culturally familiar meals as well as bread for the new arrivals

They also collected bags of donated clothing and other necessities for the new arrivals; and raised money to support vulnerable people still in Afghanistan.

Having fled Afghanistan herself during the Russian war in the 1980s, Homaira has first-hand knowledge of the refugee journey.

“The ability to help people has been really great for us and the whole community. It’s been very fulfilling to be able to help.  When the Taliban took over we were all in shock; all of my friends and family were affected badly,” Homaira said.

“For us, we had two options – to stand up and do something or just give up. So we decided we would help in any way we could. And it was beneficial for us to be able to do something.

“Since then we have received so many offers of support. It’s been overwhelming, in a good way. I’m very happy to have been able to help and we plan to do more.

“It’s kept us busy and it’s been great to see the faces of the refugees and children we’ve been able to help,” Homaira said.

The awards ceremony marked the start of Refugee Week, a long-recognised annual and global initiative that raises awareness about issues affecting refugees and celebrates their invaluable contributions.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence told the awards gathering: “The recipients of 2021 and 2022 Victorian Refugee Awards are leaders in our community and an example for all Victorians of the power of strength through hardship.”

“The inner-strength shown by recipients and the aspirations that they hold for themselves and their communities is something we should all celebrate,” Minister Spence said.