18 January 2024

Two years ago, Madina couldn't speak English, today she's starting uni

| Sally Hopman
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Womann in hijab receives a certificate from a man.

Madina Lodeen received her certificate from Fair Canberra president, Dr Krishna Nadimpalli OAM, earlier this week. Photo: Supplied.

Two years ago, at age 15, Madina Lodeen couldn’t speak English. She had fled her troubled home in Afghanistan for a new life on the other side of the world.

Today, Madina speaks flawless English, graduated from Dickson College with an ATAR of 93, and is about to start her Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Canberra.

As a young girl growing up in Afghanistan, she told everyone she wanted to be a judge.

“Some of my teachers even called me Judge,” she said. “But people said I couldn’t be a judge because I was a woman and women had feelings.”

Since coming to Australia, and on the eve of starting her law degree at UC, Madina is less convinced being a judge is her future.

“In Australia, I’ve learned that as a lawyer, you can help people. As a judge, you just make decisions – so I’m happy to become a lawyer.”

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Madina and her family were forced to leave Afghanistan in 2020. “Our lives would have been in danger if we stayed,” she said.

It took over a year for the family to get to Australia, arriving first in Adelaide where they were placed in quarantine for 14 days.

“We then spent three months in Queanbeyan before moving to Canberra so I could be closer to college.”

What were her first impressions?

“I just couldn’t believe how beautiful Australia was,” she said.

To mark the achievements of Madina and 10 other students, Fair Canberra, along with the Afghan Peace Foundation and the Migrants and Refugees Settlement Services organised an event earlier this week.

President of Fair Canberra, Dr Krishna Nadimpalli, presented the students with their achievement awards, saying it was a pleasure to be among these “inspiring children of the future”.

Eight people holding up certificates

The students were acknowledged for their remarkable efforts this week by Fair Canberra, the Afghan Peace Foundation and the Migrants and Refugees Settlement Services. Photo: Supplied.

“One thing,” he told them, “always remember to forget the past – we can’t fix it – and don’t be anxious about the future – it will be there anyway. Be in the moment and do your best. You all have done this and made everyone proud.

“Life is part of the struggle. The struggle makes the person perfect, builds your personality, makes you strong and ready for the future. I can see that you are the future.”

He told them they were fortunate to be in Australia, “the land of opportunity and the best liveable nation on the planet”.

“Everyone gets an equal opportunity to study, serve and grow,” he said.

The students who were recognised for their achievements were: Zuhal Pirzad (Hawker College graduate); Anna Jadeer (Merici College, Law and International Relations at UC); Mariam Waissi (Melrose High School, Psychology at ANU); Aysha Yousofzai (Dickson College graduate); Madina Lodeen (Dickson College graduate, Bachelor of Law at UC); Ahmad Seyar Azizi (graduated from the ANU with Advanced Computing); Ali Sena Zahir (graduated from Gungahlin College); Aamena Alizai (graduated with Bachelor of Politics and International Relations from UC); Waleed Alizai (graduated from Gungahlin College); Frishta Hussaini (graduated from Dickson College, Law at UC); Hamed Jadeer (graduated from UC in Pharmacy.)

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Reminds me of the old joke: “Yesterday I couldn’t spell engineer, and today I are one!”

Well done to all – just goes to show, given the opportunity, refugees can contribute to our society.

Peter Graves10:31 am 21 Jan 24

Many thanks for a good story about refugees from Afghanistan. Seeking “a new life on the other side of the world” Madina has proved why this is possible when Australia welcomes refugees and provides them with opportunities to achieve this.

English language and education – opportunities sought and available in our new land of welcome. With her considerable efforts, Madina provides a role model.

She stands as an outstanding example for the second verse of Australia’s national anthem:
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

Well done “Fair Canberra”

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