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Media Release: AMES community guide wins top photography award

15 October 20130 comments

AMES community guide Barat Ali Batoor has won the inaugural ‘Photo of the Year’ in the prestigious Nikon-Walkley Press Photography awards.

Batoor’s photo ‘The First Day at Sea’ was entered as part of a photo essay on asylum seekers traveling the people-smuggling route from Indonesia. It was published in the Global Mail.

Batoor accompanied a group of asylum seekers on a hazardous and ill-fated boat journey from a remote Indonesian island to Christmas Island in September, last year. On the trip the boat started to sink and Batoor and others swam to a nearby island where they were arrested by Indonesian police.

“I’m very excited to have won this award.” Batoor said.

“I’m pleased to have been able to show the real story behind these journeys – to show how people are risking their lives and enduring perils to escape persecution and the threat of death in the home countries.” He said.

“I just tried my best to show what is really happening. My hope is that my pictures will tell that story. This award is not about me. It is about my people the Hazara and the genocide against them that is getting worse every day.
“These journeys mix fear, boredom and extreme loneliness. They sometimes end happily, sometimes in despair and sometimes in death. I was lucky. I survived and I was quickly found to be a refugee and resettled in Melbourne,” Batoor said.

Batoor, an ethnic Hazara, worked as a photojournalist in Afghanistan. He produced a series of pictures, published in the Washington Post and Stern Magazine, about ‘The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan’ who were essentially young men kidnapped into sexual slavery by Afghan warlords and tribal leaders.

Because of these photos and his work with the western press, he was forced to flee Afghanistan.

Batoor has been working as a community guide for AMES in Dandenong since August.

AMES employs community guides as part of its effort to help new arrivals to Australia settle. They are former refugees who have walked the refugee journey themselves and know intimately the challenges and pitfalls refugees face – as well as some of the short cuts to successful settlement.

For images, interviews and more information please contact AMES Media Advisor, Laurie Nowell at or 9938 4031 or 0498 196 500.