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Rising above violence and racism

19 December 20163 comments

If Indian migrant Sravan Threerthala had turned his back on Australia after a drug-affected teenage thug plunged a large screwdriver through his temple and out the other side of his skull in an unprovoked attack in 2009, no one would have blamed him.

But instead, after a month lying comatose in a hospital intensive care unit and almost two years of rehabilitation and rest, the 31-year-old has rebuilt his own life and is now helping others to improve theirs.

Sravan in hospital in 2009

“You can’t blame a whole nation for the actions of an individual. I love Australia and it is my home now,” Sravan said.

He has made an amazing recovery from wounds that should have been fatal or at least severely debilitating. But even more amazing is his emotional and mental recovery.

Employed as a work broker with migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia, Sravan is now helping Australians – many of them new Australians like him – get jobs and build careers.

“I love my job. It means that I can make a difference in people’s lives and help them achieve their dreams,” he said.

“At AMES Australia I can put myself in my clients’ positions because I have been through what they are going through as many of them are new migrants looking for work. And I feel like I am learning new things about this work and about people every day,” Sravan said.

In 2009, Sravan was an Indian student studying automotive engineering in Melbourne when he was attacked when a group of gatecrashers arrived uninvited at a party he was attending.

“I don’t remember much about the incident but apparently when I asked the intruder to leave, he stabbed me with a screwdriver,” he said.

His doctors have told him that when he arrived at Royal Melbourne Hospital in an ambulance they rated his chances of survival at 10 per cent and at very best survival would mean the loss of his vision, his memory and the ability to walk.

Sravan spent three months in hospital and more than a year undergoing rehabilitation.

“I was told I was very lucky to be alive,” he said.

After regaining his health, Sravan returned to India but he said he never considered not coming back to Australia even though he was at the centre of storm of publicity at the time because his was one of a spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.

At the time Indian students were regularly being beaten and robbed, causing an outcry and suggestions of damaged international relations between Australia and India.

The then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was drawn into the debate, condemning the attacks as “deplorable” and telling then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Indian students were welcome guests in Australia.

“I believe you have to search for something where you lost it. I had a lot of good friends and experiences in Melbourne and I wanted to build my life here,” Sravan said.

“I don’t give up easily so I never considered not coming back. And after all you can’t blame a whole country for an individual’s actions.

Sravan is now a work broker

“I was asked a lot afterwards if I thought I was a victim of racism but I do not blame this country for what happened to me, it was not the government that was at fault, it was one person who was on drugs and now he is in jail,” he said.

Sravan’s life has now come full circle with the birth of his first child, a daughter, just weeks ago.

“I feel blessed. I’ve got my life back and now we have started a family,” he said.

“I want thank everyone who has helped me along the way. The many people who supported me through my recovery and my managers, at AMES, Luke and Pratik,” Sravan said.

Asked the secret of his “miracle’ recovery, he put it down to optimism.

“Everyone has a different story but if you stay positive and self-motivated, you can do anything. Never give up, never lose hope,” Sravan said.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist