Tamkin Essa is an international relations and journalism student whose young age belies her life experience, confidence and drive to promote inclusion and equity for young multicultural people in WA.
“I was born in Afghanistan in 1995 and lived there until I was three or four years old. When the Taliban seized power in 1996, my mother lost contact with my father, and we were forced to move to Pakistan where we lived for two years. It still wasn’t safe there – we couldn’t go to school and weren’t allowed to go outside by ourselves. It was especially difficult for my mum who had to protect six children on her own.
It was hard to get help because of what was going on, but my aunty, who already lived in Perth, was able to contact my mum and she helped us come to Australia in 2003; I was seven years old.
I still remember that moment when my family and I flew into Perth. It was an amazing experience. I was very shy as a child and never liked to show much emotion, but as soon as the plane landed and I first saw my aunty, I remember feeling open and free. I wasn’t in danger here – I was only seven but I could notice the difference. Now, anyone who knows me knows how outgoing I am and how much I love to talk!
Due to those early experiences and moving to Australia, I never really had a connection to my Afghan culture or community, other than through my immediate family. I went to a public school and there weren’t many other ethnic students there, so I struggled with knowing who I was. I’m a mixture of Afghani, Pakistani, Australian and also Muslim, so I found it hard to know where I fit in.
Once I finished high school I went and studied community services at TAFE, where I did a lot of volunteering in multicultural youth work and mental health areas. It felt really good working in the community and actually giving back, because I never knew such a job existed.
I decided to enroll in international relations and journalism at Curtin because I want to keep being an advocate for young multicultural people, and because I’m quite outspoken! I also volunteer for the Youth Affairs Council of WA where I plan state youth summits for young multicultural people from all around the state. These summits give young individuals the opportunity to build relationships, self-confidence and enhance their leadership skills. They speak directly with politicians to work to find solutions to issues that concern their peers.
I didn’t have this support when I was younger, or didn’t know these services were available, so I really love being a part of it. Seeing the difference you can make in young peoples’ lives, even if it’s just a confidence boost, can go so far. It’s the little things that can make a really big difference.”