Refugee Week Celebrations 2016 Leila Hajiheidari


Leila was born and raised in Iran and enjoyed growing up there. At 18 years of age, she was married and had two children.

It wasn’t until a tragic event where her brother was killed that Leila thought about getting her family out of Iran. Leila and her husband decided to flee the country with their two daughters.

After hiding out in Thailand for a month, Leila booked flights to Indonesia only to be stopped by immigration police as they stepped off the plane. Leila and her children had no passports.

“This was very bad, my daughters were crying and I was very scared.”

Leila and her daughters were detained and sent to a Bali detention camp. Leila became very sick from fear and stress as she was unable to contact family back in Iran.

“They thought maybe we had died.”

Within one year, Leila suffered a heart attack that left her hospitalised. She was then allowed to call her family every weekend.

Leila and her girls were moved to Makassar, Indonesia where they spent another 18 months. An aid organisation supplied Leila and her girls with money for food.

In 2015 Leila and her girls arrived in Australia. They reconnected with Leila’s husband and are a family once more. Leila still misses her mum who lives in Iran at age 75.

Leila attended the Adult Migrant English Program* at TAFE Illawarra. She enrolled in Certificate II in Spoken and Written English and quickly moved to Certificate III level. She has now completed an Aged Care certificate and is working in the aged care industry.

About her daughters: “They have an Aussie accent, sometimes I don’t understand.” Leila laughs.

“I am very happy here, Australia is safe for me and my family.”


*The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.