Behind her open smile there is a terrifying story of a dangerous journey fleeing war-torn Afghanistan, and months spent as a child in an Australian refugee detention camp. This is a story of survival and courage that should inspire every student because despite her unlikely start Gulnaz Beg, has overcome all the odds to graduate from UWS.
Ms Beg was born in Afghanistan and is from an ethnic minority group called Hazaras. For centuries, Hazaras have been targeted by the Taliban and encountered systematic discrimination due to their physical appearance and differing Islamic beliefs (shia).
Open to sharing her story in hopes of revealing to others whom may not be aware of difficulties that refugees and migrants face, Ms Beg is driven to giving back to her community and to helping educate others with accepting refugees.
Two decades ago, during early 2001 Ms Beg was one of the many children to be detained on mainland detention under the Howard government at Curtin Detention centre located in Western Australia.
“I cannot even begin to imagine what my life would be like if my father and mother did not make such a decision to seek safety in a nation that embraced our arrival.”
“Had I not been given the opportunity to live here, I may not have even alive or I could have been married with three children now, completely lost in depression at the bleakness of my life.”
“I am fortunate to have had positive experiences even in the most hopeless situations. My parents have worked hard and have done their best to provide my sisters and I with a ‘normal’ childhood despite our past circumstances.”
Australia is currently the only country upholding a mandatory detention policy with on shore and off shore processing, which violates the refugee and human rights laws.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – United Nations (UDHR) it states:
Article. 14 (1) Everyone has the right to seek asylum and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
“I just really wish that the government would open their arms to refugees,” said Ms Beg.
Undeterred and more motivated than the average person, Ms Beg shares an impressive history of community and social work with making positive changes.
She was a former 2016 ChilOut Youth Ambassador, a leadership role that assists in advocating for the rights of children in detention. Ms Beg was one of the ten youth ambassadors, a New South Wales representative of the program.
“To volunteer and give back to the community means a great deal to me. I personally think it is our duty as citizens to give back to the community at some point in our lives whether it is ongoing or whenever an opprobrium arises.”
The ChilOut Youth Leadership program ended April 2017. Ever since then Ms Beg has kept herself occupied with her new 9-5 job as a team member of Career Seekers where her duties include working closely with refugees and asylum seekers with assisting them to integrate into new workplaces and find employment.
“We’re a small but hard working team doing incredible work helping people with refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds attain professional paid internships.”
Breaking negative stigmas that are associated with refugees and other ethnic minorities, Ms Beg is steadfast on accomplishing her goals of encouraging others to volunteer and pursue work to be further involved in their community.
“I am a dreamer and a big believer of making things all good things possible.”
As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and in this case, that definitely applies to the extraordinary Gulnaz Beg.