HUSNA Nabi didn’t grow up with the freedoms she enjoys today.
Living in Pakistan as a young girl, life was dangerous for Ms Nabi and her family, who migrated to Australia in 2014.
“Life was not easy there … I can say it was very difficult,” she said.
After years of regional insecurity in Pakistan, Ms Nabi and her family left for Afghanistan when she was just 14, hoping for a more peaceful existence.
“The circumstances were getting dangerous so we went to Afghanistan – our (native) country – and thought life would be better,” she said.
Ms Nabi and her family couldn’t predict what would happen next.
“We went there, and after a couple of months we settled down, but then other problems came up,” she said.
“It was more dangerous than Pakistan because of the bomb blasts.
“We used to live in Kabul, where most of the attacks happened.
“During that year bomb blasts plagued Kabul, often forcing schools and businesses to close down for days, sometimes weeks.
“If there’s a bomb attack we wouldn’t be able to go to school, so it’s like a strike.
“They just make a public holiday because they say it’s not safe for the public to be out.
“The strike means ‘stay in your home because you never know if another bomb attack might happen tomorrow or something’.”
Unwilling to suffer the perpetual terror, Ms Nabi left Afghanistan after a year and moved to Indonesia with her family to begin what would be a lengthy process of seeking asylum in Australia.
“That two years of hardship taught me something and that’s why I am here,” she said.
“The process was so long, but it’s worth it.”
Ms Nabi had dreamed of travelling to Australia as a small child, yearning to one day see and touch the Sydney Opera House.
“I used to see the advertisements on the TV and I said ‘one day I will go here’,” she said.
“It was impossible at that time, and I thought I would not be able to.
“Australia is a country that everyone wants to come to.”
In 2017, during a women’s conference in Sydney, Ms Nabi’s dream came true.
“We went to the Opera House – I touched the wall and was like ‘oh, my God, my dream come true’,” she said.
Since arriving in Brisbane in 2014, Ms Nabi has graduated from high school, gained entry into Australian Catholic University – where she has also held the position of student ambassador – and last week secured a job as a personal banker at ANZ Bank.
Ms Nabi attributes much of this success to her involvement with a social soccer program run by ACU called Kicking Goals Together.
The program, established by ACU Community Engagement research fellow Dr Matthew Pink, seeks to engage youth from refugee migrant backgrounds through weekly soccer and educational opportunities.
“We started it in 2016 as a partnership between ACU and Multicultural Development Australia,” Dr Pink said.
“We got together through some common interests around sport for development, and the way that sport can be used to help bring people together, but also add other educational and social opportunities.
“By chance there were members of the Rohingya community (a stateless Indo-Aryan-speaking people from Myanmar) in the northside of Brisbane who also approached ACU in relation to seeking more soccer opportunities.
“(We said) why don’t we start a competition and we can get staff teams and student teams and other youth from refugee migrant backgrounds to come and (get) involved.
“It just grew from strength to strength and, before we knew it, we had something special that we all owned a piece of and led to these fantastic outcomes for young people like Husna.”
Before joining Kicking Goals Together, Ms Nabi’s life had started to show signs of the confinement she absconded from in South Asia.
“Before I started with KGT I used to just go to school and then come back,” she said.
“I didn’t have confidence when I first came to Australia.
“After joining KGT I have come across how to get confidence.”
The program helped Ms Nabi navigate her way into a university placement, as well as gaining employment.
“I had a passion for learning,” Ms Nabi said.
“As soon as I knew KGT was offering classes for preparing me for a workplace, the next class I was there to learn.
“It was a wonderful experience.
“I got to learn things which were outside of my boundaries that I was afraid of, but not anymore.”
Dr Pink said there was nothing special about sport, “except that it provides the framework for positive social interaction, when it’s done well”.
“We go to extra lengths in KGT to actually recognise and celebrate how cultural diversity is a strength,” he said.
“At the opening ceremony we always have multiple prayers from multiple faiths in multiple languages.
“We create the setting where we can all equally celebrate and support each other’s cultural and religious backgrounds and that really sets the tone for how we operate after that.”
This year the program was nominated in the Australian Financial Review Higher Education awards category for Community Engagement.
With one year left in her undergraduate degree, Ms Nabi has no plans on slowing down.
“I’m thinking to do my masters next,” she said.
“I really admire education.”