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Education is a powerful tool that we can use to change ourselves and the world for the better - Zahra Bayani, 2020 Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures recipient

Posted on April 05 2020

Zahra Bayani, Australia Day Awards recipient

The following is a guest post from Zahra Bayani, recipient of the 2020 Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures.

Looking back to the years that I have been alive I realize that I have been surrounded by strong, resilient and hardworking people. I am grateful that these people were by my side every step of the way. I grew up with so little and was disadvantaged throughout my entire childhood and teenage years. My parents had so little but they did everything they could to provide great opportunities for me and my siblings. My dad was a big advocate of getting education. He often said education is a powerful tool that we can use to change ourselves and the world for the better. His words are with me everywhere I go and wherever I go I make sure that I do my best and take every opportunity that comes my way.

I started school in the Esfahan city of Iran. I worked so hard and was always among top students not just in my class but also at school and district level. My parents have always supported me immensely. It is life experiences and struggles that shape a person. My family and I were not immune from the struggles of day to day life in Iran. We often faced racism at school because we were not citizens of Iran. But, I made sure that this did not get in the way of my education. I strived for perfection, worked hard and always involved myself with extra-curricular activities. I was President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) from year 8 to 12. After school I use to care for my siblings, tutor them and the neighbors’ children. Upon graduating there was no hope of going to university even though I was among top students in the state. My parents could not afford the tuition fees for university. Therefore, I started working for a charity organization and also at a sewing factory before coming to Australia.

We arrived in Australia in January of 2017. Once we boarded the flights towards this beautiful country I knew that many opportunities were waiting for me. It was the start of a new journey, new life and new beginning for all of us. We arrived at the airport and I could imagine a blank white board and I could write anything on it if I wanted to. I arrived here without any grasp of English. Two of my brothers and I were enrolled at Thebarton Senior College to learn English. Settlement was hard because we could not speak English, did not know any place, no drivers in the family and there was a complete culture shock. When I entered the school ground I knew one thing for sure and that was to make the most of my education and dreamed of going to university. We were enrolled at New Arrivals Program (NAP) and upon completion I transitioned to year 11. I became involved with Rotaract which is younger version of Rotary International. Upon completing year 11 I achieved outstanding academic certificates for all of my subjects and transitioned well into year 12. Additionally, I attended Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). This is a leadership camp that empowered youth and taught them about public speaking, teamwork, communication and leadership. I was fortunate enough to become a team leader for RYLA and RYPEN (Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment) and be part of school leader team at Thebarton Senior College during my final year of high school. I was honored to have been elected President of Global Peace Rotaract Club at the college. I successfully completed year 12 with an outstanding ATAR of 99.30. At the graduation I received awards for Best All Rounder, College Distinction and Student Citizenship Award.

I am an Ambassador for the South Australian Migration Museum, Australian Refugee Association, volunteer as an Event Responder or First Aider at public events for St John Ambulance, Team Leader and assistant coordinator for RYLA/RYPEN 9500 and president of Global Peace Rotaract Club of Thebarton Senior College. Some people ask me why I do so much. Well the simple reason is that doing this gives me inner satisfaction and also a reason to wake up every morning. I have been honored to have received the Minister of Education’s Award of Leadership in Languages and Culture for 2020. I do not do this for recognition, but it is great to receive recognition because it might inspire someone.

All these would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of my school Principal Eva, club managers Kate and Reanne and Dr Geoff. I would not be in the position that I am without my parents. They are the true heroes of my story because they have guided and supported me every step of the way.

We are so grateful to live in such a beautiful and multicultural nation like Australia. We should accept each other’s differences because it is our differences that makes us unique and opens door for growth and opportunities.

I am very passionate about youth empowerment and development. I hope to become a good role model for the upcoming generation of this beautiful country. I hope to be an example of adversity and resilience so my story can inspire youth and people to become the best version of them so they can become an asset for their community.

Currently, I am studying Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honors) at University of South Australia. I am proud of my achievements and this does not stop here. I will continue to study hard and allow time to help my community and also the wider Australian community. I hope that one day I can give back to the country that has offered me so much.  

To read more about the Award for Leadership in Languages and Cultures click here

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