Even though people face extreme tragedies and struggles in life, their ability to keep going during hardship teaches us the beauty of life.
My name is Octavia and I am from a refugee background. I am 18 years of age. I am originally from East Africa and have been in Australia for six years. I am currently in my last year of high school. Sharing my experiences and story through these images is very important to me and to my family.
Taste of the sea
This picture of a boat sailing on the water represents the risks that people take to come to a new country and the days and months that it took my close family and some of my friends to travel to the land of peace. They were told that if they come to Australia, it’s safe and it’s better for their children.
Even though they knew the risks, they also knew the opportunities and the freedom that were going to come of it. Their bravery and determination to face uncertainty has truly inspired and motivated me to do volunteering programs that aim to help people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
These photos represent the different pathways we took as a family and our journey to finally have a safe and secure home. When we came to Australia there were fifteen of us including my siblings and step siblings. We stayed in a house with the family friends who brought us. But that house got really bad. It was unsafe because of the violence.
Mum packed all our stuff and we left. We lived in so many places that I can’t even remember, in churches and other people’s houses, for three months. We’ve been moved from home to home and finally getting a place to live, that was a good feeling.
I had two people pose for this photo. It represents the abuse that I have seen. There was abuse in the first house that we settled in, in Australia.
When you’re not in Australia, it’s really okay for your husband to hit you, because he is your husband. When you come here, [although] you know it’s a safe country, people still say, ‘Don’t say anything! You don’t want your name to be ruined. You don’t want to ruin your children’s future!’
My mum didn’t want me and my younger siblings being around that, or to experience that, so she wanted to leave. We had already seen enough violence in my home country. She wanted us to feel safe.
I asked my friend to pose for this photo. This image represents a woman hiding away from reality, feeling hopeless. Her hands are reaching out for help. She needs help so she can work and earn money to support her family. She is frustrated with her life because she can’t speak English, and there are so many stresses and she doesn’t know how to ask for help.
My mum gets so stressed. We’re not the kind of people who would go ask for help like [from] a therapist, for example. We keep things to ourselves because we don’t want to feel ashamed. In my culture you have to be strong and to show your emotions is to be weak. You try to put a brave smile on. But when you’re by yourself you feel so exhausted with everything.
Some people might be depressed because they don’t know how to seek help. I wish there was more reaching out to them for their mental health support and education, telling them it’s okay to ask for help, to talk about it and to become open with your emotions. Because I know what it feels to be depressed and to battle with your own identity.
A lot of people from refugee backgrounds are trying to support their families here and overseas, which can be conflicting. For example, if my mum sends money to people in the refugee camp in one country, and to family in the refugee camp in another country, then it’s like leading a double life. There’s just so much pressure when so many people are relying on you and this can harm your mental health.
When my mum’s trying to support her other families, I feel the need to support her. And when I can’t get a job because I don’t have the right qualifications or skills, that creates pressure.
That’s what this picture represents: being trapped and not having ability [to gain] the freedom of financial relief. That creates a lot of psychological issues, and a lot of conflict between the family. That’s when relationships start to drift apart.
A new day
It’s a new day, and a new beginning. Even though people face extreme tragedies and struggles in life, their ability to keep going during hardship teaches us the beauty of life and our ability to overcome the terrible things that life throws at us. It’s a new day, and they keep going. This photo is a sign of hope that the day is not over.