Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. H.M. Girolamo:
That this council—
1. Congratulates Awer Mabil, professional soccer player and co-founder of not-for-profit organisation Barefoot to Boots on his 2023 Young Australian of the Year award;
2. Highlights the outstanding contribution he makes to ensure refugees in-country, living in camps and their neighbouring host communities, are supported; and
3. Recognises the positive contribution that refugees make to Australia.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise on behalf of the Greens to support this motion that congratulates Awer Mabil, a professional soccer player and co-founder of the not-for-profit organisation Barefoot to Boots, on his 2023 Young Australian of the Year award, as well as highlighting the outstanding contribution that not only he has made but also refugees have made to our state and to our country.
It is an honour to acknowledge the work and story of the 2023 Young Australian of the Year, Awer Mabil. Awer's journey is one that embodies resilience, determination and a deep commitment to making a positive impact in our world. Awer grew up in Kakuma, a refugee camp in north-western Kenya, after his family were forced to flee war-torn Sudan. It was here that Awer first learned to play football in dirt patches in the camp before coming to Australia at the age of 10. Arriving in our country with no English, he said he used football as a way to communicate. He is quoted as saying:
It was tough at the start because we came here and didn't speak any English at all. Football was like a saviour for me and it was a way I could communicate.
It was here that Awer's true talents began to shine. His exceptional skill, unwavering dedication and sheer determination earned him opportunities to showcase his abilities on national and then international stages. He made his senior debut for Adelaide United in 2013 and now plays soccer overseas in Europe. He recently represented Australia in last year's FIFA World Cup and scored a penalty in a must-win qualification game against Peru, helping the Socceroos secure a place in the competition.
Off the pitch, of course, Awer utilised his platform to bring about positive change and make a difference in the life of others. In 2014, he and his brother Awer Bul co-founded the not-for-profit organisation Barefoot to Boots. The organisation Barefoot to Boots started off providing old football boots and shirts to young refugees and has since gone on to support health care, education and gender equality in the camp. Awer has said his proudest achievement was donating incubators to a camp hospital. He is quoted as saying:
That for me means the world, because we've given a life with a simple thing.
It is more than a simple thing, I think.
Awer Mabil has used his voice to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and challenge negative stereotypes. He has openly shared his personal story, shedding light on the resilience, talent and contribution that refugees bring to our nation and that those communities strengthen our nation with. Awer's advocacy has humanised the refugee experience, encouraging empathy, understanding and compassion in the face of a global displacement crisis and in the face of previous government actions where people were seen as numbers rather than names and their stories were not heard and they were restricted from being embraced by our communities.
Through his actions and words, Awer exemplifies the values of inclusivity, social justice and the power of education. He has become a role model for young people, inspiring them to pursue their dreams despite the obstacles they may encounter along the way. Awer's story serves as a powerful reminder that no matter what one's background, one's dreams and aspirations are valid and worthy of pursuit. It is a beautiful game, soccer, and this is a beautiful story that all Australians should be very proud of. I congratulate him for his recognition as the Young Australian of the Year.