In 2021 Deakin University’s Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training, and Education (CREATE) partnered with the Crescent Foundation to develop and deliver career clinics for recent or soon to be university graduates from refugee backgrounds. This is a story of Kane Alkoraghooli who arrived in Australia as a refugee in 201 after many years spent living across the Middle East, trying to escape conflicts in Iraq and Syria. In 2021 he was paired with Priya Paquet, a Partner at Hall & Wilcox lawyers for the Crescent Champions Club mentorship program with Deakin CREATE.
Priya and I were discussing mental health during one of our calls, and we started talking about resilience. We actually started calling it “The R Word” because we share this very unpopular opinion that resilience should not be celebrated as much as it is. By celebrating it, people ignore the circumstances that created the resilience. People ignore that you’ve been traumatised. They don’t say that you’ve been harmed, they don’t say you’ve been injured. They just say, “Ah, you’ve been resilient.”
I was born in Iraq but had to seek refuge a number of times due to war and unrest in the Middle East. So, when I arrived in Australia, I decided to choose a career that I could use anywhere, even if I had to move again. I started with a diploma in community service and then a bachelor’s in law and business, mostly so I could always find work. But while studying, I became more interested in law and economics and society, which has grown into a genuine passion.
While I learnt so much from Priya in regard to my professional career, we actually spent a lot of time talking about things like values, managing stress, and how to balance work with your own personal well-being while also creating value in our communities. These aren’t the usual topics you’d see in this kind of mentoring program, but they were so helpful and as a result I feel more grounded in my degree and my future career.
I look at Priya and see someone who is seventeen years into her professional career and still so passionate about it, and I can only hope that in seventeen years I’ll feel the same way about my work.
Kane’s been through a lot more than I have and I’m almost twice his age. I found myself wondering, “How can I be the one that mentors him?” Kane is probably one of the most resilient people I have ever met.
One of the first things he raised with me was how much he really wants to help people – other refugees in particular – and I think a lot of our conversations focused on that central idea of helping others. Being a lawyer I was like, “Well, yes. But you’ve got to work out whether you want to help people right now and follow this career path, or whether you need to help yourself first and then follow on in the ways you want to help people.”
Kane is always thinking about others. Even now in the emails we exchange, Kane shows me just how much he cares about other people. He’s about to graduate from law and he’s thinking about taking a job that’s more about helping people than his career path per se. I hope that our time together in the Crescent Champions program has helped him realise what he has the potential to do.
I initially came to the program because I wanted to give back, but I would say I probably got more out of it than anybody else. Many of our conversations ended up being Kane teaching me and opening my eyes to a lot of things and in many ways, I feel I got more out of those conversations than Kane did. We would arrange to speak for an hour, and it would be two hours later before I realised I had to get back to work!