Laila’s story

Laila is a youth leader and face of our 2020 Zinda Festival. She advises Multicultural Services and the Multicultural Youth Network on issues that affect young, multicultural Victorians and with the Hazara community, has produced in-language videos and livestreams relating to COVID-19 updates. On September 15, 2020, Laila became an Australian citizen and shared her story about the importance of citizenship to community members from refugee backgrounds.

My name is Laila Hashimi and I am from Afghanistan. I have been in Australia since 2014. I lived in Sydney, Melbourne and then I came to Bendigo last year.

When I came here, at first I applied for my permanent residency and then last year, I applied for my citizenship. I took my citizenship test in May this year. On that day, I was in a hurry because I had a newspaper interview for the Zinda Festival. It took me only 15 minutes and the lady was surprised and she said, “don’t worry, you can do it again”. And then she said, “only two questions wrong!” She said, “take a picture, it’s a very high number and you did very well”. But I forgot to bring my phone!

I passed it the first time and then was waiting and waiting and I received the email last week and they said on the 15th of this month, you have a ceremony. I had the ceremony and I was so excited.

When I have the citizenship, I feel comfortable. I am happy and I can study. If you don’t have permanent residency, it’s difficult to apply and to do courses. Now I have my citizenship, if I want, I can go to uni.

Now I am so excited. I have lots of dreams and lots of dream jobs to do. I feel I’m very close to doing this. I have my citizenship and now I am Australian.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a policewoman. I played this game with my friends and still it didn’t change my mind. In my country, it is very difficult for women to be police. Every family likes their children to be a good person and a famous person. But my father, he said to me, “you should fly. You are very strong and you can do everything. You will one day be a police and I will see you in your uniform”.

When I get my dream job, it will be difficult. English is my second language and I still try to improve my English. I am doing Certificate IV in English and I have done Certificate III in Hairdressing. But I am not interested to be a hairdresser. It is my idea to follow what we are interested in, not just the job. It makes me happy when I am helping other people. Before I get my dream job, I will apply as a dental assistant. Then I will have good experience and it make me closer to my dream job.

It is important for every refugee to have citizenship and they feel happy and they feel now they are forever in Australia. They are not worried. Especially for our community, Hazara community, life is difficult for them in Afghanistan. Especially for women. When we live in Australia and we get the citizenship of Australia, we feel very happy. We are safe. No one will tell us to go back to your country.

When they get their citizenship like me, they feel happy.