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From East Africa to Australia: Elie’s inspiring story

With determination, hard work and a little bit of help from Red Cross, Elie is making the most of his new life in Australia and helping others along the way.

When Elie arrived in Australia in March 2018 as a young refugee, he was determined to make the most of the new opportunities that awaited him.


Photo: Monique Bolus/HSP Wollongong

At just 22, starting life over in a brand new country after leaving an East African refugee camp would be enough of a challenge, but as the eldest child in a family of seven, Elie also had the huge responsibility of supporting his parents, grandmother and siblings in their settlement journey and a building a new life in Australia.

From day one, Elie was clear in his intentions to pursue university studies and create a better life for himself and his family. He also aspired to be a role model for other newly arrived young people.

Australian Red Cross assisted Elie by connecting him with the University of Wollongong. He has since completed a course at the University of Wollongong College, and is about to commence his Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics.

Elie is also passionate about making a difference in the community, particularly when it comes to creating greater awareness and compassion towards others who are newly arrived from refugee backgrounds. He does this through participation in a local youth leadership program, where he delivers public talks to schools and other groups. He’s also been an active participant in the Wollongong Humanitarian Settlement Program events, including Refugee Week and end of year celebrations.

When he was living in the refugee camps of East Africa, Elie helped out by acting as an interpreter. Australian Red Cross has assisted Elie to make use of these skills in Australia by connecting him with work opportunities. He is now employed at Wollongong City Council as an interpreter, providing language support to other newly arrived families.

Australian Red Cross also referred Elie to the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network 2019 FUSE conference application process, and supported him in writing a strong application. FUSE is a three-day summit for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Bringing together people from all across Australia, the conference aims to build participant’s leadership, advocacy and community organising skills. Entry to the conference is a competitive process, but Elie’s determination and ongoing community work stood out – he has just been awarded a fully paid trip to Melbourne to participate in the conference.

Despite significant challenges, Elie has always maintained a kind nature. His immense motivation is inspiring and the Humanitarian Settlement Program Wollongong team are extremely proud to walk beside him during his settlement journey.

It’s fair to say that Elie is pretty fond of the Red Cross Humanitarian Settlement Program Wollongong team too:

“Thank you for your support! I know everything which I have achieved is all about you and your team as I always let you know, and you always support me in any kind of way so I can get where I want. Y’all are legends. I am really delighted that I met [you], and you helped me throughout.”

The Humanitarian Settlement Program is a national program supported by the Australian Government. With the help of our amazing volunteers Red Cross offers refugees a safe and welcoming introduction to their new life in Australia. You can help support the program by volunteering