My multicultural Australia

Queensland Multicultural Awards finalist Madina Mohmood (centre) reflects on the people and circumstances that inspire her to make a positive change in her community.

Madina with Homa Forotan, Ayesha Tauseef, Nyrah Jaffar and Sediqa Karimi at the UQ Cultural Ball organised by AfSA and other UQ cultural societies.

Madina with Homa Forotan, Ayesha Tauseef, Nyrah Jaffar and Sediqa Karimi at the UQ Cultural Ball organised by AfSA and other UQ cultural societies.

I was born in Australia and raised in an Afghan household.

My parents came to Australia as refugees two years before I was born and started their life together from square one. My dad was a doctor in Afghanistan and his qualifications were not initially recognised here. He studied for the Australian Medical Council, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine exams while working in remote areas of Australia away from any Afghan community.

Eleven years later, with my mum’s unwavering support and three small children cheering for him, he received his Fellowships - among other degrees - and has been working as a General Practitioner ever since.

So, from a very young age, I was inspired by the example of my parents. They taught my siblings and me that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to and work hard for. They taught me about my cultural heritage and the political situation in Afghanistan and how lucky we are to live in such a peaceful country. They taught me that education is a privilege and to take advantage of the opportunities available to me in Australia to make a positive change in the world.

These values have guided me to find my passions. In high school I pursued my interest in humanities subjects, and so the decision to study law and arts, majoring in Peace and Conflict studies at UQ, felt like the natural next step. I'm now in my fifth year of a Bachelor of Arts/Laws, and I aim to use this education to speak out against injustices and to use my knowledge to benefit others.

Despite growing up away from Afghanistan, Afghan culture is a big part of my identity. But it wasn’t until recently, when I met young Afghan-Australians in the same position as me, that I really embraced my background. Being ‘third culture kids’ means that we are uniquely positioned to create a culture that is inclusive of both Afghan and Australian ways of life. This prompted me to help form the Afghan Students’ Association (AfSA) at UQ in 2015 alongside a group of Afghan-Australian students who shared my passion for making a positive contribution to the community.

I was involved in the association for almost three years and served as its President in 2017. In this short time, AfSA has become a catalyst for unity and hope in the community. It has provided Afghan youth with the chance to learn more about Afghanistan and it has connected Afghan and non-Afghan youth in celebrating the beauty of our culture. It has even inspired others to create change in their own communities. From there, I have been a part of the Queensland Afghan Community Association as a Youth Representative and I am currently working on creating a youth committee to empower more young people to become community leaders.

I have been incredibly lucky to have supportive mentors while growing up in Australia. My high school teachers and principal believed in me and continue to be a major support network for me now. The compassion of the solicitors who I volunteered with at the Salvos Legal Asylum Seeker has left a lasting impression on me, and elders in the Afghan community constantly encourage me to continue my community work.

I would love to be able to mentor other young people in the same way and pay forward the kindness that I have received.

Madina with her sister Aryana Mohmood, 2017 AfSA Secretary at the UQ Market Day.

Madina with her sister Aryana Mohmood, 2017 AfSA Secretary at the UQ Market Day.

Through these experiences I have seen first-hand just how much value and richness multiculturalism adds to Australian society. My message to all young people from migrant backgrounds is that our cultural diversity is a strength and we all must embrace it if we want Australia to move forward.

A quick look into Australian history and recent political events shows us that Australia still has a long way to go to become a fully inclusive and equal society. And I truly believe that this will only happen when young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to meaningfully engage in public conversations about cultural and religious diversity. We must have a seat at the table.

In the near future, I plan to continue and expand on my community work while completing my studies at UQ. I then hope to pursue postgraduate study in the area of International Law and ultimately I hope to practice in this area.

The Queensland Multicultural Awards recognise the valuable contributions of Queenslanders who support and promote a united, harmonious and inclusive Queensland community.

The 2018 winner of the Outstanding Young Achiever category Nkosana Mafico is also a UQ alumnus. The 23-year-old African Australian is passionate about advancing humanity through business. He moved to Australia from Zimbabwe when he was 10-years-old and grew up in Brisbane. He founded the Council for Young Africans Living Abroad (CYALA), a professional development organisation for young Africans.