Refugee Week
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Atena’s story

The Journey

Atena Kashani, originally from Iran, had a typical childhood in Tehran, enjoying school, friends, and close ties with her grandparents. Eleven years ago, aged just 9, her life changed drastically when her mother informed her that Iran was no longer safe due to threats against her father from the government. The family quickly sold their house, said a final goodbye to their grandparents, and fled to Indonesia.

From Indonesia, they boarded a crowded fishing boat heading to Australia. After a perilous week at sea, marked by illness and food shortages, they were rescued  and transferred to Australian detention.

Arriving in Australia

After two months, they were moved to a small apartment, shared between multiple families. Her parents worried about finding jobs and a home, but perservered. They found employment, secured housing, and Atena and her brother enrolled in school.Atena excelled academically, earning a scholarship to university, and became a Taekwondo champion in Victoria. Some time later, her parents even opened their own restaurant, marking significant progress in their new life.

Giving Back

Currently, Atena manages a restaurant and works as a youth advisor for the Brotherhood of St Laurence. She also teaches Taekwondo and collaborates with various organisations like the Refugee Council of Australia and the Refugee Advocacy Network. As a National Refugee Ambassador, she participates in the Refugee Stories for Change program, striving to raise awareness about refugee issues.

Atena’s experiences have shaped her resilience and inspired her advocacy. She  wants to tell the world about the extreme difficulties of the refugee experience, and adds, “but also how strong we are; how much we are willing to push for our, our children and our families’ lives.”

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