Iraqi refugee’s lifelong promise to support those in need

When 18-year-old Iraqi refugee Handre made a promise to an immigration official to come to Australia to study at University, little did he know he would end up helping others with their journeys.

Handre and his family were forced to flee war torn Iraq in 2003 when they were threatened because of his father’s work at a local newspaper. It was a dramatic and frightening end to a life he loved and his university studies in Baghdad.

Handre ended up in Australia with a goal – to fulfil his promise, get his life back and teach others about the importance of pushing yourself to succeed.

“In Australia if you have a goal you will be able to reach it,” Handre said. “I like to be able to show people that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”

After years of study and hard work, Handre now helps other newly arrived refugees’ access government support at the Department of Human Services in Fairfield. He speaks Chaldean, Arabic and English and is able to help people navigate the system in their own language. He uses his experience to encourage them to embrace their new lives.

“I know how they think and I try my best to be really helpful,” Handre said.

“When I first arrived in Australia, I could speak English, but I was embarrassed by my accent and was shy about replying. It took some time but I knew I had to start talking to people. I thought how will I reach my goal if I don’t try.”

Handre is sharing his story as part of Refugee week which celebrates the courage, resilience and contributions made by refugees to Australian society.

He especially enjoys working with young people, seeing so much of his 18-year-old self in them, and reassuring them they can also achieve their goals.

“Now I can ask people where they want to be in the next 5 to 10 years and help them make their lives even better,” Handre said.

He said while his time in Australia has flown he will always remember his promise to his new country and continue to work hard to provide support to those who need it.

More information

  • You can find more information about support for refugees and new arrivals here.