Windmill Theatre Co’s production of Amphibian is the fictional story of a young refugee who travels from Afghanistan to Australia in search of a better life.
Many refugees take this difficult journey – like me, Muzafar. In 2012 I left Afghanistan with my family to find a new home in Australia.
Would you like to hear my true story?
In 1986, in a small village called Khalaj in the Gizab District of Afghanistan, I was born.
When I was only three months old, my whole family moved to a town called Quetta in Pakistan.
There was a war happening in Afghanistan, and my parents didn’t want to be a part of the fighting and violence - so we moved to a whole new country, and that’s where I grew up.
I didn’t return to Afghanistan until I was 18 - that was in 2004.
I went back to Afghanistan because it was getting more dangerous in Quetta - there had been bomb blasts, and people I knew had been killed, so I was very sad and scared.
But I also went back to Afghanistan because I wanted to know my home country. And I’m very happy I did, because while I was there I got my first job, I met my wife - Zahra, and my wife gave birth to our daughter, who we called Natiqa.
Things were getting worse for me and my family in Afghanistan. We were being threatened because we are Hazara people and because of the work I did with organisations like the UN.
I decided it would be best if we went back to Quetta, in Pakistan, but things weren’t much better there. Just a few days after we arrived back, there was a series of deadly explosions in the town.
Other people I knew had already fled the danger in Pakistan, so I decided to follow in their footsteps. We wanted to make it to Australia - a country we knew was safe, but we knew we couldn’t go there without first waiting for permission from the Australian Government.
We couldn’t wait in Pakistan though - it was too dangerous. So, we headed in the direction of Australia to wait out our time as refugees nearby. First, we flew to Malaysia, and from there we headed to Indonesia by boat.
We were citizens of Afghanistan, not of Pakistan, and we didn’t have permission to travel from Pakistan to other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
But, we were scared for our lives, so in order to make the trip I paid people smugglers to help us. We paid more than $7,000 for each of my family members who took the journey, and we were given false passports.
At every stop along the way, we were very worried. In Malaysia we had to hide in the bush at night before we got on the speedboat. In Indonesia we had to run ashore from the boat without being seen.
It was only once we were in Indonesia that we could tell people our real names again, and begin to make applications to see if we would be allowed, eventually, to live in Australia.
A few days after we arrived by boat in Indonesia, we met my Mum in the town where she had been living since fleeing Pakistan many months before.
That town is called Cisarua and it was our new temporary home. We were anxious there, because we didn’t know how long it would be before we were given permission to come to Australia – we knew that most refugees wait for years.
But, even while we were waiting there, we met some amazing people, and together we did some amazing things.
In 2015, my wife, my daughter, and I arrived in Australia. We landed in Sydney, and then flew to Adelaide - and that is where we live now.
It was a long journey, but this is the end. We are finally safe. We are finally home.
Get the facts on refugees with this resource from the Refugee Council of Australia, including why people leave their homes, and what challenges they face once they settle in Australia. You can learn more about my life as a refugee in Indonesia, and the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre in the documentary The Staging Post. Or you can read The New Yorker article – one of the references that inspired playwright Duncan Graham as he wrote Amphibian.
Settling down in your new home in Australia is challenging for many reasons, but anyone can help refugees feel welcome. Contact your local refugee associations and find out about how you can be involved, whether it be through attending community events or becoming a volunteer. Invite a local group of refugees to your school and ask them to share their story, or host an event welcoming new arrivals to your community.
While not everyone can afford to give to refugees, you can contact your local refugee associations and find out what food or material items are in need. You could hold a food drive at your school to collect items. You could even screen The Staging Post as a fundraiser where your donation goes to your local association, the Refugee Council, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, or one of the many other incredible not for profit organisations assisting refugees.
With thanks to Muzafar Ali, Farrin Foster and Love + Money Agency.