*Please note: audio grabs of Trudi Mitchell, Asif Sultani and Akec Makur Chuot are attached.
Australia for UNHCR is celebrating the courage and talent of athletes from refugee backgrounds in Australia this World Refugee Day.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 20 June 2023) marks the international United Nations day, which honours the strength and courage of people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution.
“For people uprooted from their homes, sport is more than just a leisure activity. It gives refugees a sense of normalcy and belonging. An opportunity to heal, to grow and to succeed,” Australia for UNHCR CEO Trudi Mitchell said.
“In Australia, we have seen people from refugee backgrounds thrive across sporting codes, not only because of their talent but because of their courage and resilience too – which is worth celebrating this World Refugee Day."
Akec Makur Chuot, an AFL Women’s player with Hawthorn and Ambassador for Australia for UNHCR, is a former refugee from South Sudan. She said AFL gave her a sense of belonging.
“It didn’t matter where I was from, how tall I was, how short I was, whether I was South Sudanese. All the fans of our club care about is that I can play the game and I represent the club proudly,” she said.
“To be the first African woman to play in the AFL, you know that’s not just something that happens overnight.”
Asif Sultani, a Hazara refugee living in the NSW Hunter Region and UNHCR High Profile Supporter, fled Afghanistan because of persecution and war. Today he is a motivational speaker and martial artist.
“When I was a kid I had to leave my homeland because of war and conflict and I’ve been looking for that safety for over 20 years and finally I’ve found that through sports and martial arts,” he said.
Australia for UNHCR has been raising money for sport facilities in refugee camps this World Refugee Day.
The UN Refugee Agency uses sporting partnerships, programs and tools to improve the lives of displaced people.
“We want to create a world where refugees always feel included, not only in sport but in school and at work,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Refugees don’t want handouts, they want opportunities to contribute to their community. They just need to be given the chance – and we all have a role to play in that.”
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