Khodadad Rezaee’s extraordinary journey

 Khodadad Rezaee’s tertiary education pathway was born a long way from the classroom, teachers and parents that most young Australians are used to; his new life began on the Indian Ocean, sandwiched between two fears, the Taliban and the unknown.  Now, he is the living, breathing embodiment of an issue whose human face is often lost in the bureaucracy of words.  He was a ‘refugee,’ an ‘asylum seeker,’ one of those ‘boat people’,a sometimes generalised perception in the minds of the Australian public.  Now he is Jason, his adopted Australian name, newly naturalised and proud to call himself ‘true blue’ and play his part in what he believes is a great nation.  This is his story.

Khodadad Rezaee Jason left Afghanistan eight years ago at the beckoning of his parents, whose fear of the controlling and dangerous Taliban regime warranted enough cause to send their son on his perilous journey.  He arrived in Australia, still 16, in January 2001 to the welcome of a cell, spending six weeks confined in the South Australian Woomera Detention Centre, before being granted a Temporary Protection Visa.  At this time, the detention policy allowed refugees no social services or fundamental rights and protection lasting only three years. His intent to learn English well enough to study at high school led Jason to enrolling in an intensive language course at Adelaide Secondary School and 12 months later, he began studying year 11,  In 2004, he relocated to Canberra, a decision that saw him repeat his final year of study to gain a higher UAI score. This then resulted in him being offered a place at La Trobe University in 2005, studying a Bachelor of Business at the Albury-Wodonga campus.  

It was here that bureaucracy caught up with him, as Jason recalls: ‘I was still on a temporary protection visa, which meant the University had to treat me as an international student and therefore charge fees for my tuition.’ However, La Trobe staff, aware of Jason’s situation, managed to raise enough money to pay for the first semester of his study while he waited on his application for permanent residency, one that was finally accepted. Not only did this allow Jason the chance to stay, but it also meant that he was then able to complete the rest of his course under HECS, a system that would allow him to pay off his student loans at a later time. He was also granted a scholarship through the School of Business and it was with the University’s generosity and support that he managed to complete his degree.  

Finally completing his Business degree in June last year, with a major in Marketing and Management, Jason has begun work locally at an accounting firm.  This is a very positive environment which he believes is continuing to provide him with opportunity and career development.  ‘Recently we all donated blood and are providing financial assistance for the Victorian bushfire appeal.’  It is these notions that have stuck with Jason, ‘I feel we are part of the community and for that I am grateful.’     

    A recent significant achievement however was being chosen to deliver the inaugural Valedictory Address at the Albury-Wodonga campus graduation ceremony in April.  His honest and appreciative speech created such an impression that he was invited to present it again at the prestigious Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner. This was an honour which not only excited Jason, but also saw him sharing his inspiring story with some of the most esteemed members of La Trobe’s community.  Jason’s story is one of perseverance and spirit, a journey of transformation and hope and one that those involved with La Trobe and Jason are privileged to share.