A BAYSWATER teenager who came to Australia as an asylum seeker from Pakistan has overcome cultural differences to be nominated for a WA Youth Award.
Ali Raza Yusafzai (19) witnessed terrorist attacks and bombings in Quetta throughout his childhood before his parents decided to send him to Perth three-and-a-half years ago.
He is now a photographer and has volunteered for the annual Walk Together Perth event, the Youth Advisory Council WA’s (YACWA) Shout Out program and the Annual Youth Sector Summit.
He has also participated in programs dedicated to refugees, such as the First Hike Project and First Home Project.
Mr Yusafzai said he was happy to be nominated for the positive achievement award.
“I am proud to be a finalist because so many people in Australia think about asylum seekers in a different way and being nominated for this award challenges the stigma I have felt from being an asylum seeker,” he said.
Mr Yusafzai said it was difficult to grow up in an unsafe and fearful environment.
“We always thought that when we were to leave the house, they were going to kill us next,” he said
“When I arrived to Perth, I felt so good because I was living in a beautiful, safe environment and I felt like I was born again. There were no people sitting in the street with no arms or no legs, and for a few minutes I thought I was in heaven.”
Mr Yusafzai said his parents had not visited him and he could not return to Pakistan because he was processing his Australian visa.
He said he struggled to understand the Australian culture until he first did volunteer work with Red Cross.
“I was living so far away and didn’t have any friends who spoke English, and I couldn’t speak or understand English, it was really difficult for me to communicate with people,” Mr Yusafzai said.
“This was the point where my life definitely changed… from there I started doing volunteer work for different organisations and people, and as I am Muslim I started going with them to church to respect their religion.
“No matter which colour skin you have or religion you have, inside our blood is all red; I know from the outside we look different, but from the inside we are all the same.”
He said he gradually made more friends who helped him with his English and to deal with racism.
“I also am involved with a special group that runs a program with Murdoch University and UWA that runs events for refugees, such as picnics and all-day events to encourage connection of friendships between asylum seekers and the university students,” he said.
The WA Youth Awards 2016 winners will be announced on November 25.