RENATE KAMENER ORATION
Abdi’s world fell apart when he was only fifteen and Somalia’s vicious civil war hit Mogadishu. Unable to find his family and effectively an orphan, he fled with some sixty others, and joined another 300 heading to Kenya. On the way, death squads hunted them and they daily faced violence, danger and starvation. After almost three months, they arrived in at refugee camps in Kenya – of the group he’d set out with, only five had survived.
All alone in the world and desperate to find his family, Abdi couldn’t stay in Kenya, so he turned around and undertook the dangerous journey back to Mogadishu. But the search was fruitless, and eventually Abdi made his way – alone, with no money in his pockets – to Romania, then to Germany, completely dependent on the kindness of strangers. He was just sixteen years old when he arrived in Melbourne. He had no English, no family or friends, no money, no home. Yet, against the odds, he not only survived, he thrived. Abdi went on to complete secondary education and later university. He became a youth worker, was acknowledged with the 2007 Victorian Refugee Recognition Award and was featured in the SBS second series of Go Back to Where You Came From.
Despite what he has gone through, Abdi is a most inspiring man, who is constantly thankful for his life and what he has. Everything he has endured and achieved is testament to his quiet strength and courage, his resilience and most of all, his warm-hearted, shining and enduring optimism.