November 21, 2013
Residents in Mudgee say an Afghani refugee who has moved to the town is changing local attitudes about asylum seekers.
The man, who we are not naming to protect his family still in Afghanistan, arrived in Australia by boat in 2011 after fleeing the Taliban in 2010.
Locals have rallied around him, volunteering to teach him English and helping him find work.
Mudgee businesswoman, Frances Doolan, employees him and says he has changed her attitude about asylum seekers.
“I was very ignorant, really didn’t have an opinion on it to be quite honest,” she said.
“They were just stories on the television.
We’re in a small country town, so we don’t have anything to do with asylum seekers and now we do and we want to help.Mudgee businesswoman, Frances Doolan
“It never touched me personally and I think I’m not the only one.
“We’re in a small country town, so we don’t have anything to do with asylum seekers and now we do and we want to help.”
He originally came to Mudgee with a farm contract worker.
Despite there being no Afghani community in the area he decided to stay because of the people.
“I thought maybe if I stayed far from the city, in countryside is better,” he said.
“I can talk with the people to learn English and improve English.
“I know everywhere, every country the countryside is better than city.”
He says locals have been very kind and multiple people have been helping him learn English.
“I meet one lady, her name is Lisa, she work in library,” he said.
She give me a few books, it still was for me hard. She say, if you want help, I can teach you.Afghani refugee
“I talk with her say please give me some children book.
“She a little bit smiling and say ‘Why children book?’
“I say ‘I want to learn English’.
“She give me a few books, it still was for me hard.
“She say, if you want help, I can teach you.”
Local teacher, Chantal Tyrrell, says she asked him to come and tell his story to her year eight students.
She says it had an incredible impact.
“It was just amazing, what we noticed, just the difference within probably 10 minutes of the empathy that they found,” she said.
“From just seeing it on the news and really having no real connection to hearing his story and then all of a sudden wanting to help.
“We’ve got a beautiful community, but this has just made it extra special I think.”