The Cybec Foundation
Toast to the Founders and Benefactors of Trinity College
Toast to the Founders and Benefactors of Trinity College
given by resident student
Mr Ali Alamein (1st year Engineering/Science)
Friday 30 September 2005
Dr McGowan, distinguished guests, and fellow students.
I am honoured to be given the opportunity to propose this toast and thank the founders and benefactors for their generosity which has given me the chance to be a member of this amazing College.
This is the first time I've ever spoken in public and I can tell you that I am bit daunted. Now I would like to take a moment to share with you my life's story.
I was born in Iraq twenty years ago. However, to my disappointment, I never got to know my country. I had to leave Iraq when I was five because my father was a member of the Daaveh party which was opposed to Saddam Hussein's actions. Because of this we had already lost a family member, my uncle, so we felt the danger and left Iraq for Iran.
I grew up in Iran, went to school there and learnt their culture and way of living. I was deprived of many things in Iran as I did not have citizenship. I could not play in the basketball states finals and I missed a year of study when I worked at a friend's shop. At this stage my father left the country to come to Australia for various reasons.
Working for a year at the age of fourteen was a really good experience, but that was not my goal in life. I wanted to study to be like my uncles. After a year I went back to study Year 9 - by bribing some officials. I continued working after school.
After I finished Year 9, we left Iran to come to Australia. We went to Indonesia where we caught up with our smuggler. After three months of waiting, finally the time arrived for us to leave for the country of my dreams. We left Indonesia for Australia on 31 August 2001. We were picked up by the Australian navy who took us to Nauru. We were the first group of people to be taken to Nauru along with the Afghani asylum seekers from the Tampa.
My mother, three brothers and I had to stay in Nauru for fifty weeks until we were approved as genuine refugees. Having to spend one year in a detention centre under atrocious circumstances at the age of sixteen was a testing experience and soured my expectations of life in Australia. I had set goals and had always hoped Australia would be the place to fulfil them. Now - I was unsure.
I arrived in Australia on 3 September 2002. We were reunited with dad in Shepparton. I did not know much English. I said `yes' to everything people asked - or told - me without even knowing what they said. I started studying a week later at Wanganui Park Secondary College. I took all the hard subjects even though I didn't know what they were called. In one memorable chemistry test, I just memorised the answers for specific questions and copied the answers down wherever I thought the questions looked like the ones I had memorised ..... and I got the highest mark in the class.
Almost two years later in Year 12 - reflecting on everything I had been through during my journey and stay in Australia - I realised I had met many amazing people who were always there to help out. I had found a kind of community who always smiled and said "g'day mate" without even knowing me. Most importantly I had made so many lifelong friends. Life was almost perfect.
I was fortunate to be in an environment where I could achieve my goals. However, there was one thing that always put me off studying - my belief that no matter how hard I worked I would not make it to university due to my visa status in Australia. This idea really upset me and distracted me from my studies. So I just tried not to think about it.
The person who helped me out with my application to RMIT also put in an application to Melbourne University for me, as he knew I wanted to go there. I thought I never stood a chance.
21 January 2005 at 2.33pm - I got a call from the University of Melbourne that made everything else possible - I was offered a scholarship. It was the very same day that I applied for a scholarship at Trinity College. Within a week I got a call saying that I got the scholarship at Trinity College.
I would like to thank the Rural Australians for Refugees, especially Rob Bryant, for their support and introducing me to Trinity College.
All of my dreams had been realised. Well, the hard thing was that I now had to look for new goals.
Before coming to Trinity College I didn't know what to expect. At first it was very scary. I did not know if I would fit in. In reflection, however, I think it was stupid of me to even think that. I have been here for seven months now and to be honest I have loved every single moment of it. The experiences I have gained here in such a short time can not be valued. To imagine I intend staying here for the next few years is just so amazing and motivates me to work harder towards my goals.
In the past year, I have been heavily involved in college life. I have done things that I would have never considered doing in my life. Firstly, who would have thought I would play footy. Iraqis do not play this strange Australian 'sport'. I really loved it and was surprised to find out that I will be the 2nd XVIII Vice-Captain next year.
Another strange experience was tutoring Sudanese students and helping them out with essaywriting. This is strange because it was not long ago that people were helping me with my English and it reminded me of the days when my ESL teacher taught me how to write an essay. I also joined the Carlton Youth Soccer Club committee. It is a club run by volunteers from Trinity College who feel that encouraging the youths who live in the Carlton housing estate to participate in a city-wide soccer competition is a great way to help them integrate into Australian society. The experiences I have obtained and the people I have worked with since I started helping out have been sensational.
The wonderful people I have met have given me higher expectations for life and what it will bring me. In fact I now have so many goals that I feel like I need to get rid of some of them.
Some of the friends I have made here are a true inspiration to me, for example my next door neighbour at College, Phyl Georgiou. He's always been there for me to offer his support to talk to and to party with. He has given me new goals in life and changed my approach to some aspects of my life. And I would like to use this opportunity, even though he is not here tonight, to thank him for his consistent support.
Coming to Trinity has not only allowed me to mix with amazing people and chase my lifelong goals, but it has given me the opportunity to give back to the broader Australian society what it has given me. In particular helping teach English and playing soccer with refugees has been a rewarding experience because it was not so long ago that others were helping me.
So finally, I would like to thank all the benefactors, Mr and Mrs Riordan, Trinity College, and the founders of Trinity College, for giving me the privilege to be a member of this family.
Now I would like you all to stand and join me in a toast to the founders and the benefactors of Trinity College.
... To the benefactors and the founders.
Ali Alamein (1st year Engineering/Science)
firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 03/613 9592 8579