YEARS of political debate and misinformation about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia hasn’t soured the optimism of Haider Ali Hazara.
The 19-year-old Afghani, who has lived in Ballarat since September, said Australians were welcoming and accepting of refugees.
“Most Australians are quite happy with asylum seekers in the community I think,” he said.
“They are interested to find out where we have come from and how we made it to a place like Ballarat.”
Cared for by the Ballarat refugee Circle of Friends organisation, Haider encouraged the community to take part in Refugee Week events beginning on Sunday.
During a harrowing six-month journey from his homeland to freedom, Haider escaped an Indonesian detention facility with 20 other asylum seekers.
He travelled from Pakistan to Thailand by plane, then by bus to Malaysia and via boat to Christmas Island from Indonesia.
“I was in detention for two months but we escaped back to Jakarta from Bali by driving for 20 hours,” he said.
Now enrolled in an automotive pre-apprenticeship program at the University of Ballarat, Haider said people were often surprised to learn how he made it to Australia.
National Refugee Week will feature the 20 Years Too Long march on Sunday.
Participants can meet at the Ballarat Train Station at 9.10am for the 9.17am train to Southern Cross.
For more information on the Ballarat Circle of Friends, contact 5332 3414.