Bhakta, Tin Hta and Qasem are celebrated for giving back to their communities.
Since 1960, the Australian of the Year Awards have been given to citizens who inspire positive change on issues of national importance.
This year, three former refugees were recognised for their significant contributions to the community. Bhakta, Tin Hta and Qasem’s stories are a powerful reminder of refugees’ resilience and the profound impact one person can have on many lives.
Bhakta Bahadur Bhattarai: Winner of VIC Young Australian of the Year
After spending his early years in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, Bhakta and his family came to Australia in 2012. He completed high school and then trained as a pharmacy assistant and registered nurse.
Feeling lonely and isolated in a new country, Bhakta established Albury Wodonga Multicultural Community Events Inc in 2014. The organisation supports, celebrates and advocates for multiculturalism.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bhakta provided homemade masks to the elderly and emergency food for 450 households. He also arranged entertainment programs to promote community wellbeing and fundraised to support sick children and people with disability.
In Nepal, he runs women’s empowerment projects that distribute hygiene kits and other essential items to women with disability.
“When I was in Nepal, we didn’t have much. I know what it feels like to have nothing. I just want to give back to the communities who are struggling.”
Tin Hta Nu: Nominated for NSW Senior Australian of the Year
Tin Hta Nu, an economics lecturer, fled Myanmar in 1990 after her life was threatened.
Together with her friends, she founded the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group (MNCRSG) in Port Macquarie and has been an active member since its inception in 2011. The organisation advocates for asylum seekers and helps refugees successfully settle in their new hometown.
Tin Hta also runs a community cafe and garden, teaching locals how to grow and cook fresh produce. She sells garden produce to fundraise for MNCRSG and provides meals for the homeless.
Tin Hta’s generous spirit reaches all the way from Australia back to her home in Myanmar, where she has established a school for 200 underprivileged children, supports the education of female orphans and funds rural libraries.
Qasem Bahmanzadah: Nominated for SA Young Australian of the Year
Qasem fled to Australia from war-torn Afghanistan in search of safety.
Arriving in Australia not speaking a word of English, Qasem has since become an ambassador for the Australian Refugee Association. In this role, he educates the community about the challenges refugees face and fundraises to support those forced to flee.
Qasem also mentors Aboriginal and Torress Strait Islander students, volunteers at St John Ambulance and empowers youth with leadership skills through Rotary programs.
Qasem credits his success to the unwavering support of his mentors and, most importantly, his family.