Finding Home: Personal stories of seeking asylum – Bwe Thay and John Gulzari

07 Jun 2017

Bwe Thay, Community Liaison Officer at Swinburne University of Technology and John Gulzari, Entrepreneur and Community Leader on creating opportunities

Bwe Thay is a Burmese refugee who arrived in Australia in 2009. He is known both within Australia and internationally as a passionate advocate for the empowerment of fellow refugee migrants and asylum seekers through education. A graduate of the Australian Catholic University, Bwe now works as a Migrant Student and Community Liaison Officer at Swinburne University of Technology. His work at Swinburne has contributed to that university becoming a leader in providing a welcoming environment for refugee migrants and asylum seekers. Since 2010 Bwe has been a member of the Refugee Tertiary Education Committee (RTEC), which encourages universities to open their doors, offer online scholarships and give access to higher education for refugee migrants and asylum seekers in transition or refugee camps across the world. He is also the co-chair of the newly established Refugee Communities Advocacy Network Victoria.

John grew up in the remote farming village of Dahmerdah-e-Gulzar in Afghanistan. He lived with his family, tending to sheep and helping his father to look after the farm. The Taliban killed his older brother and came to recruit young men to fight for them on the front line. Fearful for his life, John had no choice but to leave Afghanistan. He was 17. He arrived in Broome in Western Australia; the red earth to him felt like being on Mars. Settling in was hard for John as he struggled to make friends, and learn the culture and the language. He was determined; after detention and moving to Melbourne he studied English, then Business, and Community Services. He worked as a driving instructor, taxi driver, real estate agent, and volunteer fire fighter. In 2014, John ran as an election candidate for the Victorian Parliament. He hopes to one day work in Geneva, representing the rights of Asylum Seekers and campaigning to end the systemic persecution of the Hazara people.

This discussion took place 7 June 2017.