Refugee Week student profile: Biruk dreams of using his education to help others

Biruk Bagole is a talented sportsman, Arsenal fan, and hopes one day be a physiotherapist so he can work in an Ethiopian hospital and make a difference – he also happens to be a refugee.

The second year Bachelor of Health Science (Sport and Exercise Science) student was forced to flee Ethiopia during the Eritrean-Ethiopian War which claimed more than 19,000 people – he was just eight.

“It wasn’t safe to stay there. At one stage they ordered everyone from Eritrea and everyone from Ethiopia to return to their homelands. The problem was, my mum was from Eritrea and my father and our family were from Ethiopia so we would have been split up. Instead, my mother flew to Kenya to a refugee camp and we began applying to seek refugee status in Australia,” says Biruk.

Finally, in 2003, Biruk and his family got the opportunity to meet with the Australian High Commission in Nairobi and were granted refugee status.

“I remember that interview very well. I was only young, but remember sitting in the room while my parents worked with translators to present our case. I wish I could find the man who granted us the status so I could thank him!” says Biruk.

As soon as they arrived in Australia, Biruk says education was made a priority in his family – his father Markus enrolling in a nursing degree within the first 12 months of being in Australia.

“Education has always been considered really important in our house. My father was so dedicated to his study when we first arrived in Australia, and it mustn’t have been easy for him. He really was my inspiration to go to university and make the most of the opportunities I have here,” says Biruk.

“I went back to Ethiopia at the end of year 12, when I was 18. While it was great to reconnect to my cultural roots, it was also a great reminder of the opportunities I have here, including a university education – opportunities that I intend on making the most of.”

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21 June 2018

Media Unit