Ali Yaghobi arrived in Australia in 2013 as a refugee from Afghanistan. With a keen interest in community work Ali attended a Life Matters workshop in March 2020, not expecting much out of it. The workshop left him pleasantly surprised.
Starting life in a new country
“No one wants to leave their home and the hardest part of my journey was definitely leaving home (Afghanistan) and settling into a new life in Australia. It was a big change but as I didn’t have a problem in communicating in English I soon settled into life and work in Australia without any major issues.’
Ali had a background of work in an environmental agency in Afghanistan and since coming to Australia has been involved in the community sector including working with the Southern Migrant andRefugee Centre (SMRC) and AMES-Australia. Over the years, Ali has served in education and social work programs, and is currently working as a case manager with Beata Home Care. He has been a member of the Asylum Seekers and Refugees advisory board and the Multicultural Advisory board of Dandenong Council from 2014 to 2018. He is a co-founder of a community organisation, the Afghan Australian Initiative, of which he is currently Secretary. He is studying for a Master’s degree in international community development at Victoria University.
‘When I was invited to attend this workshop, I thought it would be just like other workshops that I had attended in the past: speakers would come and present to us and then we would be asked to share our experience. However in this workshop, although the format was almost the same as I had imagined it would be, the content was something totally different. To me, it was transformational. As someone who came to Australia as a refugee from war-torn Afghanistan, and having been involved in many community projects, initiatives and workshop, I can tell you that the Life Matters experience was something unique.’
‘It was unique in term of transforming my thoughts, perceptions and way of thinking about people, events and circumstances. As a community development student, my studies often involve researching tools that can be used to apply community development principles in different community settings. The speakers and presenters at the Life Matters workshop inspired me and equipped me with important tools that I can use in different situations and circumstances in the future. I can put into practice the theories I have learnt.’
The important things in life
Ali feels that ‘in a world that is often full of uncertainty, where money is seen as a means to an end, and where a sense of community has been lost to individualism and self-interest, workshops such as Life Matters help to bring back attention to what is important in life.’ The workshop centres around themes of the importance of community, value-based systems and businesses, responsibility, ethical leadership, inner peace and forgiveness, all of which Ali considers as important areas of discussion.
The focus of Life Mattes tied in well with Ali’s own motivation behind co-founding the Afghan Australian Initiative in 2015. Having successfully settled in and navigated the system in Australia, Ali and two of his friends were keen to create a group that would enable them to pass on this knowledge to others in the community who may be in need of it. ‘We want to be a voice for the community in navigating the often-confronting new systems and dealing with authorities. Supporting others in the community is our goal,’ he said.
A pandemic world
Talking about his life after the workshop Ali said, ‘It has been an interesting coincidence that the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia soon after the end of the workshop and changed everything from the way we do business to the way we live. The practice of ‘quiet time’ that was inculcated in me during the workshop has certainly helped me to navigate these trying times. I am sure it has had a similarly positive impact on my fellow participants at the workshop. This time of upheaval has also highlighted the importance of having the right tools to cope with the devastating impact a pandemic can have on a person.’
The workshop has also led to Ali making commitments to change at a very personal level. ‘I hadn’t spoken to my sister back in Afghanistan for more than a year, after an argument with her. Soon after the workshop I put away our differences and messaged her, apologising for not being in contact and conveying my intention to connect with her, irrespective of our differences in opinion.’
Ali is committed to continue to think about ways in which he can use the tools he has been given, in both his personal as well as professional life. He is focussed on getting his organisation the deductible gift recipient (DGR) status that would bring about more funding and in turn help them to do greater work with communities here as well as overseas. He is also exploring the possibility of running workshops of this nature in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, where, he believes, it is much needed. 'Education is the key to elevating people from poverty and empowerment’ Ali said.
In terms of his own professional career, Ali is looking for opportunities to work in the public sector where he feels he will be able to ‘make a difference every day in the lives of people who need it.’