Growing up in Afghanistan she lived in constant fear for her life and couldn’t make plans for the future.
“I remember there were days when I was going to school, I would say ‘bye mum’ and think ‘today might be the last day of my life’,” Malal recalls.
“It was very dangerous and nowadays it’s riskier than it was before.”
Desperate to escape the war-torn nation, Malal, her mum Sonita and younger sister Amena applied to the UNHCR for refugee resettlement in another country.
After a six year wait they were finally relocated to Newcastle, Australia in 2019.
When you meet the bubbly and optimistic 21-year-old, it’s hard to believe she ever faced such hardship.
The trio has been living in the city ever since their arrival and couldn’t be happier. While it was difficult in the beginning and some challenges remain, they’ve come to know and love their new home.
“It’s a very different country, it’s quiet and the people are friendly – I am very glad that I am in Australia,” Malal says.
It’s proven to be a place full of opportunities for the entire family. Malal is studying at university, Amena is a student at San Clemente High School and attends CatholicCare’s Refugee Hub’s tutoring program each week and their mum is learning English.
A major achievement for Malal was getting her driver’s licence thanks to the support provided by CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning.
Through its Refugee Hub, CatholicCare runs a Learner Driving Program which is proudly supported by the City of Newcastle and the NRMA.
The initiative, launched earlier this year, is assisting a number of people from refugee, asylum seeker and vulnerable migrant backgrounds. The program provides participants with up to 10 driving lessons and covers the cost of their driving test and NSW Driver's Licence.
Malal said her participation in the program helped her become confident behind the wheel and to comprehend the rules of the road.
“I’m the first person to get a license in my family and I’m now the person who can drop everyone, everywhere when they need it,” she said.
“It’s very helpful, before that we used to catch the bus and it was very hard for us to go long distances but now since I got my license, I can just turn on the car and go to where I need to be and come home.”
She probably won’t be the only person in her family with a licence for long though – Sonita is currently taking lessons and her teenage sister, Amena, won’t be far behind.
Having gained her licence, Malal is now looking forward to furthering her studies at university and continuing to learn new things. She hopes to study something involving science so she can find a job that allows her to support others.
“You just have to push yourself towards learning something new that can help you so you can help others,” she said.
“I am motivated to go forward and never give up – no one is responsible for our future except us, we have to push ourselves.
“Don’t forget that good things take a lot of time. It’s not always easy but it’s possible.”
For more information about how CatholicCare supports people from refugee backgrounds, please visit www.catholiccare.org.au/community-programs/community-refugee-hub