More than 100 young migrants and refugees have taken part in a football tournament at Fairfield in Sydney’s west to send a message of unity in the wake of the Sydney siege.
The sporting contest was one of a dozen social events and activities held as part of a day of action across western Sydney.
Events were held in Parramatta, Blacktown, Liverpool and Campbelltown, and as far as the Hunter and Illawarra regions.
Ten migrant resource centres across the state joined Settlement Services International to bring together socially isolated youth through sport and social activities.
Esta Paschalidis-Chilas from Settlement Services International said the day was about empowering young migrants to reclaim their identity after the events of the Sydney siege.
“We were quite concerned with what had happened, it really did shock a lot of people,” Ms Paschalidis-Chilas said.
“This is our way of saying it was a one-off and these things don’t happen in Australia often.
“We really just wanted to say our communities are stronger together, to reclaim a commitment to diversity and for local communities to lead that.”
Clement Meru from the Fairfield migrant resource centre said some young people from Middle-Eastern backgrounds had felt isolated and discriminated against since the Sydney siege.
“Some of our clients from Middle-East backgrounds said they were targeted because they wore the hijab,” Mr Meru said.
“Some feel alienated and this event is important because they feel part of a community.
“They need a voice, they need to be heard, they need to feel they belong.”
Youths flee Iraq
Ricard Raheem, 17, fled Iraq in 2013 after the Islamic State ravaged his home town.
“I came to Australia because it’s safe and the people are nice,” said Mr Raheem.
“I saw what happened [at the Sydney siege] and it wasn’t good.”
He said he played in the soccer tournament to show all Australians were one community.
“We are all together, whatever background, it’s a multicultural country,” said Mr Raheem.
“I played for all the people of Australia.”
Smithfield local Salam Akram, 16, came to Australia from Iraq and said he participated in the day’s events to encourage more of the community to come together.
“We all come from different backgrounds and we can stop racism,” said Mr Akram.
“We have come together to show that religion and race doesn’t matter, we are all the same.”
Ahmed Freijet, 16, also from Iraq, said he wanted to support his fellow migrants.
“It’s important for people who are new to Australia to feel welcome,” said Mr Freijet.