Refugee Week is an annual celebration where we acknowledge and celebrate refugees and their contribution to our society. It's an opportunity for us to pause and listen to their stories.
This year’s theme for refugee week is finding freedom – a journey many Australians never had to embark on, a right gifted to them in birth, and a concept that was rarely challenged
For Meran Faraj the path to finding freedom was arduous and for many years out of reach (sight).
In 1998 Meran’s family would make the life changing decision to flee their home region of Kurdistan (northern Iraq).
“I was very young I was in year four when I left Kurdistan. Sadam Hussein’s forces were bombarding the northern regions of Iraq and it was no longer safe for us to stay.”
Meran’s ancestral home of Kurdistan had been a point of geopolitical contention for decades. The Kurd’s pursuit of independence from Hussein’s regime had led to systemic violence and targeted persecution.
His family would flee north across the border into Türkiye, where they would apply for refuge in Australia.
“I was playing soccer outside with my friends when I heard the news. My parents called me inside and told me that we had finally been accepted.”
“I had an uncle living in Adelaide who sponsored us to come out and live in Australia. We had been displaced, living in Türkiye for four years.”
Meran would be a teenager when he first step foot onto Australian soil.
“We arrived in Adelaide in late December. We had left Türkiye during Winter and were still wearing heavy jackets and jumpers,” laughed Meran.
“I remember that drive from the airport to my uncle’s house. I just thought it was so cool looking out the window at all the houses and thinking that everything had a new shine to it.”
The Faraj’s started to settle into life in Australia with Meran and his sister spending a year learning English at an international college.
“Before I moved here, I hardly knew a single word in English. In Türkiye I learnt the alphabet and how to count but that was about the extent of my knowledge”
“At first high school was challenging but its here that I made my first new friends and could start building my future.”
Meran would go on to study Architecture at UniSA, land a career working at an architecture firm in 2013 in Stirling and go onto become an accredited architectural technician .
“The design of buildings and how they were put together was always a curiosity of mine – I loved to draw and Architecture seemed like the perfect fit for me.”
“It’s been a great privilege to come to Australia and have the opportunities to go fromm barely speaking English to working in a career I love.”
In 2020, Meran and his family would find a home in Munno Para.
“I was drawn to the north both by affordability and by the big open spaces. It’s been incredible to live here with my family and get to know our community.”
“During our first week living here a neighbour stopped by and invited us to a BBQ. We got to meet a lot of other neighbours during that day.”
Meran has taken this week to reflect on that long road to freedom, one which had started with his life being turned upside down as a child and ending with him starting a new life here in Playford.
“It’s interesting to think about – how much my life has changed over the past 20 years. Everything is freedom here. I am free to say what and think, free to no longer fear or worry about violence or persecution. I have a choice, my family has choice, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Today there is more than 32 million refugees across the world and more than 103 million people who are forcibly displaced from their homes.
Meran’s story reminds us that these figures are more than just numbers written on a page – each digit represents someone who faced unimaginable challenges, someone who is scared and uncertain about their future, someone who is yet to find their freedom.
And for all of those who travel this journey and find themselves settling here in Playford – we really hope you find it here.
Subscribe for updates
I consent to City of Playford collecting and storing my data from this form.