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The media often misrepresents refugees

By Dragana Bendo - posted Monday, 22 October 2001

I am from the former Yugoslavia. I am going to share my personal story and experience with you. I would like to explain some of the reasons why I have left my country.

Ten years ago I had to leave my home town of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The reasons are probably known to most of you. There was a war in my home country: the war that destroyed a country where people used to live happily. I was only 10 years old when it all started, and before that I felt happy and safe with my parents. I thought that it would be like that forever – but it was not.

In 1992 tragedy happened. I was little and I did not understand what was happening, why people were killing each other and destroying all the places where I used to play with my friends, and why I couldn’t go for a walk with my parents through the streets of my town. I was afraid that something bad was going to happen to my parents and to my sister. I didn’t now where my father was for three years. I thought I would never see him again.


There was only the three of us, my mother, my sister and myself. We had to leave without father’s protection and support. It was hard but the hardest thing was not knowing whether he was alive and if he was, where might he be. We left Sarajevo in 1992.

In the next six years we moved from place to place, lived in 10 towns, and met hundreds of people who influenced our life in one way or the other. Three years later my father came out of the concentration camp, where soldiers held him. He couldn’t stand watching us living such a hard life. No place to stay, working hard but never with enough for our basic needs. It was a life without a future, a life without tomorrow.

Therefore, my family decided to try to go somewhere we would have better prospects for our future. So we applied to come to Australia. We were granted visas in 1998 and came to this country the same year.

It wasn’t easy to start a new life here. There have been some issues that we had to overcome. Learning another language, getting to know the city, the streets, adapting to a new and different schooling system and to a different culture. Almost everything was different for us.

But what really hurts us is when you hear the media telling bad stories about refugees. The media usually present one side of the story, they always use double standards, and that gives the people a wrong picture of refugees. They try to present the refugees as uncivilised and uneducated poor people, which makes it very hard for us to interact with ordinary Australian people.

It is very important that people think of us as equal and give us the same chances and opportunities to develop in that way we can also contribute to Australian society. We don’t need charity, we didn’t come here to ruin or culturally change Australia as a country. We also want to help Australia as much as this country helped us, we can exchange the information and feed ourselves (Australian society) with knowledge.

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Department of Immigration and Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs
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