A Foundation of Hope – How A Refugee Rebuilt His Life On The Gold Coast
11 Oct 2018
Pouriya Khoshnoodi is an Iranian who started a Multi-level Marketing (MLM) business from nothing by importing products and selling them in his home country. As the business grew, Pouriya travelled the world attending seminars to understand how to improve his operations.
“I went to Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Doha. Each time I returned I would rent a cinema and invite sellers to teach them everything I had learned.”
Eventually Pouriya had 42 offices, employing over eighteen thousand sales people. Then one day his world was turned upside down. A television news broadcast in Iran announced that MLM businesses were haram, which under Islamic law represents something that is forbidden.
“After that, they shut down my business, without further explanation”.
Fearing he might go to jail, Pouriya fled for Malaysia, where he lived for almost a year. It was a dark period of his life, marked by a lack of hope. Then one day he heard that the Iranian government had removed the prohibitive condition from MLM businesses. He could go back home. “I went back to Iran in 2011 and started my business again. It grew really fast, but after only seven months, they shut it down again.”
This time, Pouriya escaped to Indonesia with his wife, and with little chance of ever returning home they decided to risk their lives on a boat to Australia.
A Perilous Voyage
“Before getting on the boat, I was 99% sure we weren’t going to make it to Australia. I didn’t really have any hope. Then, when I saw the boat I was 100% sure that we would not make it.”
They got on board alongside 150 people who were escaping conflict. On their second day at sea, when everyone had stopped crying and had fallen fast asleep, the boat`s engine broke down, and their hopes sank, almost literally, with everyone thinking that it was the end.
“We were just waiting…”
After four days adrift, they were found by the Australian Navy and were then taken to a refugee camp on Christmas Island.
“When we were there, it was really tough. We had a hard time. Everyone had a hard time. On Christmas Island, or in any camp in Australia, or anywhere in the world, you don`t know anything about your future. They don`t tell you anything. All they said was that they were going to send us to Nauru or Papua New Guinea.”
Pouriya admits they got lucky, nonetheless. Whereas many people in refugee camps may stay there for more than two years, Pouriya and his wife stayed on Christmas Island for two months. They were then sent to another camp in Darwin where they resided for a few weeks before being relocated to Loganlea, and finally the Gold Coast.
That was at the end of 2012, under a bridging visa, which didn’t allow them to work nor study.
“It was a really hard time in our lives. I was home all day, I couldn`t speak English, couldn`t work, couldn’t study…”
In 2016, when Pouriya managed to prove his case he was granted a protection visa.
A Life Changing Opportunity
“When we got the permission to study and work our lives changed. That`s when I started the AMEP course at TAFE. And then I regained hope for the future.”
At TAFE, Pouriya learned essential life skills - from applying for houses and jobs, to writing a cover letter, and preparing himself for job interviews.
“At TAFE, they have amazing teachers who really want to help you. Before TAFE, we didn’t have confidence, I couldn’t find friends and I didn’t know how to apply for jobs. It was the best thing that happened to us.”
Pouriya and his wife, have certainly had their ups and downs, but now their Australian born son gives them a more meaningful experience, and they have renewed hope for their future.
“I lost everything, but I found too many things here, and I am glad my son will grow up here.”
Pouriya hopes to go to University one day. “My passion is to study. I just love it”. When asked where he’d like to study he says emphatically: “In Gold Coast, of course, the best city in the world.”
*Pouriya is still studying English at TAFE, where he will commence a cyber security course soon after he graduates. When he is not studying, working, or spending time with his wife and son, he may be found fishing at The Spit – an ode to his new Aussie lifestyle, which he appreciates dearly.