Amir Douraghi Nezhad was just seven-years-old when he and his family climbed aboard a small fishing boat in Indonesia to make the risky journey to Australia.
The now 18-year-old University of Queensland Bachelor of Nursing student said his parents were seeking refuge after fleeing their native Iran.
“Political and religious freedoms were under threat and living conditions had deteriorated,” Amir said.
Amir, his parents and younger brother spent two weeks at sea on the fishing boat with around 40 other people, living on water and dried noodles, until one night the vessel sank.
“We were rescued and taken first to Christmas Island, and later the Darwin Detention Centre,” Amir said.
The Nezhad family was eventually granted temporary protection visas and released in Brisbane around one year later.
Despite having to learn a language and start a new life, the family has thrived in Australia, even developing a church to help other refugees.
“Religion has been one of the main things that has helped me and my family,” Amir said.
“We helped form one of the first Iranian churches in Brisbane, which has now expanded interstate to help other refugees.
“For us, it’s truly a family away from our family.”
Amir is the first person in his family to attend university, having completed his first semester in UQ’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.
“I’m really fascinated by the anatomy of the human body and plan on applying to study medicine at UQ once my Bachelor of Nursing is completed,” he said.
“I want to help people, and honestly can’t see myself in any other career.”
Amir said he also wants to help others by sharing his story, and challenging stereotypes about the refugee community.
“I believe that if I can’t stand up for myself, I can’t expect anyone else to do that for me.
“It’s why I take any opportunity to share my experiences in the hope that it can help others.”
Amir said the advice he lives by is to always keep going, because tough times don’t last forever.
“I believe life has seasons,” he said.
There are good seasons when you’re in a good spot and then there are down seasons when life is not going great.
“But always remember to fight for what you want and keep going – the bad seasons won’t last forever.“