At this year’s World Refugee Day lunch, we were inspired by stories of resilience and hope.
Last Thursday, we held our annual World Refugee Day event, honouring refugees in Australia and around the world. The event raised vital funds for refugees to access sporting facilities.
Our 400 guests heard from Australian Olympic track athlete and former refugee Bendere Oboya and her father Opamo.
Bendere came to Australia from Ethiopia as a young child and is now one our most promising track athletes. She represented Australia at the Tokyo Olympics competing in both the women's 400 metres and the women's 4 x 400 metre relay. Bendere is one of our brightest prospects for Paris 2024 and hopes to compete in the 800 metres. She was just three years old when she came to Australia. Bendere's father Opamo spent five years in an Ethiopian gaol as a political prisoner; he sought refuge in Australia to give his family a better life.
After hearing Bendere’s story, Australia for UNHCR Chair Peter Shergold said stories like this not only inspire us but remind us of the importance of helping refugees to reach their full potential.
“You remind us what Australia gains when we welcome and then invest in refugees,” he said.
Guests also heard from Anyier Yuol, winner of the 2023 Australia for UNHCR – SBS Les Murray Award for Refugee Recognition.
Anyier was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and came to Australia at the age of 10. She excelled at football and represented Australia at the FIFA Football for Hope Festival in 2010. Anyier has also launched a beauty pageant for African-Australian women, started a charity empowering children both here in Australia and in refugee camps overseas, and is undertaking a PhD on bride price practices in South Sudanese communities.
Anyier told guests that when she was in Year 12 she travelled to South Africa to play football, however was injured on her first day and couldn’t play for two years. After that she decided to start her modelling agency for African-Australian women called Miss Sahara.
“I asked myself: do I want to feel sorry for myself, or do I want to make a difference? [I could] turn this opportunity into something positive,” she said.
The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.