Kensington resident’s personal mission to help refugees

Vesna Samreth.
Vesna Samreth.

A KENSINGTON resident who grew up in Australia says she will never forget her family’s sacrifices to escape conflict in Cambodia.

Born to Cambodian refugees at a refugee camp in Thailand, Vesna Samreth arrived in Australia as a three-month-old baby in 1983.

Ms Samreth said her family was fleeing from Cambodian leader Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and was supported by the then-government’s commitment for a peace settlement.

“My family was in a refugee camp for five years in Thailand and I was born in one of them,” she said.

“Initially we were told we were to be resettling in America.

“I had a really good upbringing in South Perth, we were really lucky to be given state housing in Kensington.

“For the neighbours, it would have been new to have these refugees next door… I think we were the first load of Cambodian refugees.”

The Khmer Rouge carried out genocide which resulted in the deaths of more than 1.5 million people from 1975-1979.

Ms Samreth studied at Curtin University and has worked in Bangkok at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since September.

“It was really a dream to be able to work in the country I was born in and with the organisation that have helped my family,” she said.

“It’s knowing how hard it was to walk for seven days and nights in the jungle and just wanting to help people in the same situation as you.”

For Ms Samreth, World Refugee Day on June 20 means raising awareness of the plight of refugees and for what her family went through.

“It’s a big reflection of my personal situation and not forgetting there’s still many people in the situation now that need our help and support,” she said.