20 April 2022

Australia for UNHCR and SBS are delighted to announce former Yugoslav refugee, Danijel Malbasa as the inaugural winner of the Les Murray Award for Refugee Recognition.

The award, sponsored by SBS, recognises an outstanding former refugee who is raising awareness of the plight of forcibly displaced people, and is named after beloved sports broadcaster Les Murray AM, himself a former refugee from Hungary.

“SBS is so very proud to sponsor the Les Murray award. This award pays tribute to Les’ legacy, but importantly also continues his work in driving awareness of the many ways that refugees make  positive contributions to Australia’s multicultural society,” said James Taylor, Managing Director of SBS.

Australia for UNHCR National Director, Naomi Steer congratulated Mr Malbasa and thanked him for his work supporting refugees.

“I know that Les Murray would be delighted with Danijel as the inaugural recipient of the Les Murray award. Danijel has overcome many personal challenges and trauma to carve out a successful legal career and now uses his advocacy skills to help other refugees,” said Ms Steer.

Danijel Malbasa was seven years old when his father was killed after stepping on a landmine. Young Danijel, his mother and three siblings spent six years in camps for Internally Displaced People.

“I can honestly say, hand on heart, that UNHCR was there for us and they saved our lives,” said Mr Malbasa.

Danijel Malbasa the winner of this year’s Les Murray Award for Refugee Recognition.

Danjiel with his mum and brother in a refugee camp in Serbia, 1998. © Supplied

The family came to Australia on a humanitarian visa when Danijel was 12 years old; he was malnourished and traumatised and spoke no English. More than 20 years later, he is an industrial relations lawyer who in his spare time works to highlight the plight of refugees. Mr Malbasa is also a talented storyteller who has written extensively about his experience as a refugee. His writing has been published in books and leading newspapers.

Mr Malbasa said he was delighted to have won the Les Murray award.

“SBS and Les Murray were a constant presence in my life as an ethnic kid growing up in Australia,” he said. Les Murray taught Mr Malbasa that “you can have a career that has nothing to do with refugees and displacement, but still have a sense of responsibility to refugees and people seeking asylum.”

“Our father’s passion for the plight of refugees in Australia and around the world equalled his more recognised devotion to football. He saw refugees not as burdens but as contributors whose diverse backgrounds, perspectives and abilities deeply enrich Australia’s cultural landscape. On behalf of Les, we congratulate Mr Malbasa on this very special recognition,” said Les’ daughters, Natalie and Tania Murray.

Mr Malbasa sits on the steering committee of the National Refugee-led Advocacy and Advisory Group. He volunteers as a migration agent with Refugee Legal, where he helps asylum seekers apply for Temporary Protection Visas. He is also the Deputy Chair of the Forcibly Displaced People Network – Australia’s first LGBTIQ+ refugee network.

The judges of the Les Murray award include former Ugandan refugee Ann Odong, SBS Director of Language and Audio Content David Hua, UNHCR Multi-Country Representative Adrian Edwards, and Australia for UNHCR Deputy Chair Kate Dundas.

Mr Malbasa will be appearing at Australia for UNHCR’s World Refugee Day event on Thursday 16 June.

For further information

Lisa Upton                                                                                          
Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Australia for UNHCR
[email protected]
+61 420 754 441                                                              

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