ALI Reza Ghulami’s life in Afghanistan was one big risk.
Not only was the teenager an adherent of Shia Islam, the country’s minority Islamic sect, he was also of the Hazara, meaning his people were constantly in danger.
“My father was a police officer and he was enemies with certain people, so he was killed,” Ali Reza said. “My whole family had enemies and I didn’t feel safe ... we couldn’t live there otherwise we would die.”
Ali Reza left his family in 2011 and fled to Malaysia, where he boarded an overcrowded boat with more than 100 men, women and children.
For five days he made the journey across the sea with nothing more than boiled egg whites and water for sustenance.
After being held at the Christmas Island detention centre for two months, he was granted entry to Australia, where he now lives the life he has always sought.
“My life started as a risk and my situation was very bad. It was by chance that I got to Australia,” he said.
Saturday marks the 12th anniversary of the SIEV-X sinking south of Java in 2001, where more than 350 lives were lost.
The Ballarat Australian Refugee Association Circle of Friends wants Ali Reza’s story to be heard in a bid to raise community awareness about refugees and prevent such tragedies from occurring again.
ARA Circle of Friends co-ordinator Kath Morton said it was important such an event was not lost in history.
“We are hoping to raise awareness in the public so we get a better understanding about the reasons people flee,” Ms Morton said.
“Sadly, since the SIEV-X there have been many similar tragedies.
“We do not know how many have died in these circumstances, but it is important that we do them the honour of keeping their memory alive.”
While Ali Reza is grateful his boat reached Australian shores safely, he now has his hopes set on one final dream.
“When my English improves I want to become a policeman, just like my father,” he said.