In 2008 I was invited to travel to the United Nations in New York as part of a delegation of law students from South Australia. I remember getting a phone call from the organiser of the UN trip, and after he patiently listened to my litany of reasons why I could not go—my casual work, upcoming exams, other commitments—he interrupted and asked: ‘Is it because you can’t afford the flights?’ I denied it and said that was not the reason, but he persisted. He offered to fundraise for me so I could go. I was too proud to accept his offer. At that stage I was still ‘closeted’ about my refugee identity. I didn’t feel it was my burden to carry. Besides, I didn’t have the language with which to describe it.
But somehow the organiser of the trip (one of the other law students) had found out where I came from. He knew because when our professor projected dead bodies from the Yugoslav Wars so the class could understand what crimes against humanity look like, I would walk out of the lecture theatre discreetly in case I recognised neighbours exhumed from the mass graves. He said he wanted me to go and speak at the United Nations as a survivor of multiple wars who had lived through the refugee experience multiple times, and as someone who had used the UN’s mechanisms to find safety here in Australia. He felt I had something to say from the ‘coalface’ to those who make decisions that so often create refugees.
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