Burgmann College PRINT 80

Khalil Kamali's Story

Alone as a refugee by boat

Khalil photo 2

Content Warning: War, murder, violence, refugees

My parents are originally from Afghanistan and sought refuge by moving to Pakistan in the early 1990s due to the war. I was born in Pakistan with limited opportunities to access education and dropped out of school at a young age to work full-time in a retail shop. For decades, the Hazaras were targeted by militant groups because of our religion (Shia) and ethnicity (Hazara).

My family members were injured in one of the bomb blasts. In 2011, due to the dangerous situation, I decided to come to Australia alone as a refugee by boat. As Hazara, we are a persecuted minority where persecution continues even today by militant groups in my home country, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, our place of refuge. In Kabul a few years ago for example, seventy schoolgirls were murdered from my ethnic minority group.

I was recognised as a refugee and fortunately granted a permanent residency in Australia in August 2012. I did not have anyone in Australia to support me financially and did not see my family for over 10 years. I learned English in detention and finished secondary schooling in Adelaide in 2015. In January 2016, I moved to Canberra to study a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) / Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the ANU.

When I started studying at ANU, it was challenging for me academically, financially and mentally. At the core level, I didn’t have the financial resources to sustain myself. I never expected that I could complete my studies successfully at ANU.

However, with the generous support of the Burgmann community, I completed Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics in 2019 and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) in July 2021.

My parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, and I’m the first in my family to graduate from university. Due to the political volatility, my family and the broader community cannot safely access education: this is the narrative for millions of Afghans, and before coming to Australia, it was my reality too.

I was supported by a bursary throughout my years at Burgmann. Burgmann’s support also meant that I was able to join the Australian Army Reserve. I have been a Driver Specialist since February 2017 and have been involved in many operations, including the BushFires Assist in 2019-20.

Burgmann College supports me not only as an individual, but as a member of the Afghan community to access world-class education and allows me an opportunity to make a difference.

My parents and I will always remember the generosity and kindness of Burgmann. Thank you.

Khalil Kamali (2016-2022)
Bursary Recipient