I want to stay in Australia. In my country, Ethiopia, there is civil war. It is not safe for me to go back. In 2011 I left my hometown, Maychew, looking for a better job. I became a member of the Opposition party. When I returned home to visit my family in 2014, the local government imprisoned me for 2 weeks. They told me not to go back ever again. In 2015, however, I got a scholarship to study a PhD degree in China, so I decided to go back to my hometown to say goodbye to my mum. The local government imprisoned me again. They tortured me this time. At one point, I felt blood coming out of my ear. They got scared when this happened and let me go.
When I went to China, I noticed my hearing was really poor. I talked to a friend and he helped me to go to the hospital and check my hearing. They told me I had hearing damage and gave me a hearing aid.
I came to Australia in 2018 to present one of my PhD research papers at the 62nd Australian Agricultural Resource Economics Society (AARES). I knew I’d have to go back to Ethiopia when I finished my PhD, so I decided to seek asylum in Australia. Three weeks after my arrival, I moved in with my Australian host family, Lyn and Neil. They took me to a GP, who checked my hearing again. They recommended I get a different hearing aid – one that I could program. I couldn’t afford that hearing aid, though. They are expensive and, because I am not a permanent resident, I can’t access Centrelink benefits.
In 2020 I was granted a Commonwealth Access Scholarship to study a Master’s in Environmental Science. I contacted my University’s audiologist (Nicole) and she put me in touch with Soundfair so that I could get a hearing aid through their hearing aid bank. They’re second hand, but it’s better to have a good hearing aid. The wrong hearing aid can do more harm than good.
I am happy to be in Australia. It is a good place to live. I come from a different culture. In my country, if you have a disability, family may accept you, but the community may not. They discriminate you, call you names. In Australia, I can wear my hearing aid and talk to everyone, but I notice that that fear is there. I miss a lot of information and feel ashamed to ask people to repeat what they said. My social interactions have become limited. I don’t want to go anywhere, just want to be at home. I feel lucky to be able to study from home at the moment. If I go outside, I need to put my hearing aid on and I feel different. I guess it takes time getting used to it. I am lucky to be here, though. I look at myself, at how I am getting better and better because everyone has tried to help me. Community can change you, change your situation.
Refugees and asylum seekers like me need support. We have suffered many things. People leave their country because they had a problem. If someone does not help us, it is very hard for us to access things. Communication barriers, language barriers, feeling ashamed, there’s many reasons. Organisations like Soundfair can help. But we still need donations from the community and government funding so that we can get new hearing aids for free.