Mahdi Alizada.

“Geelong has been our first and only home in Australia. That is where I have learnt about Australian culture, understanding the language, meeting friends, and meeting the community.”

Mahdi Alizada is a 16 year old Afghani refugee living in Geelong. Mahdi, along with his mother, father and five other siblings came to Australia almost 3 years ago through UNHCR. He attends Northern Bay College Goldsworthy Campus in Corio.

mahdi by Brandon Dellow

“I was born in Ghazni, Afghanistan. I started school at around the age of 7. When I got older at around 10 or 11, I used to work in my uncle’s grocery shop, helping him clean and organise the shop and sell things to customers. When it was night time, that was time to go home.

“I have always liked learning at school. When the Taliban came, they banned education in lots of cities. I had to then go to school in a small village. The Taliban controlled what we learnt. We had to learn what they told us to learn. One day while studying in the morning, around 9:30am, the fighting began between the Taliban and local soldiers. A rocket hit the ground next to the school building. All of us ran outside looking for somewhere to hide. From that point, conflict happened in our community. My family were forced to flee to Pakistan.

“In Pakistan, we applied to move somewhere else in the world because there was also fighting and conflict in Pakistan. My family had to wait 3 and a half years before being accepted to come to Australia.

“On the way to Australia in the plane, I was thinking there would be better shops, food, cars, schools and people. One thing I was concerned about was that we are from Afghanistan and cannot speak English, how would I go to the shop or work in school?”

Now a Year 10 student, Mahdi’s English skills have grown exponentially, and he has a feeling of identity within the community, volunteering at local community events and helping out anyone in need. “I want to finish Year 12, and go to university. There are so many job opportunities to have here. I would like a career in medicine such as a doctor or nurse, or even try real estate. There are many opportunities and jobs to have a passion in.”

Story and photo: Brandon Dellow