Asylum seeker’s Olympic and academic dreams on hold

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Hamed Ghorbani is a high achiever in his chosen sport and academia and a prime example of the talent and dedication found in many new migrants and people seeking asylum in Australia.

Hamed, 27, from Iran, is living in the community on a bridging visa, awaiting a response to his application for refugee status.

He lives in Ryde after seeking asylum in Australia in May last year. Unable to work due to his asylum seeker status, Mr Ghorbani approached the Sydney Uni Handball Club soon after arriving in Australia to ask if he could play.

“It is very good there,” he said, “I met new people. I feel very welcome there with the good relationships I have with my teammates and coach. They are very good to me; they help me and support me.”

Mr Ghorbani represented Iran at youth levels and played in the country’s professional league for five years. While in Australia Mr Ghorbani has access to case management and support through Settlement Services International (SSI). The organisation is the largest in NSW involved in the resettlement of refugees and asylum seekers.

SSI chief executive Violet Roumeliotis said Mr Ghorbani’s achievements were impressive.

“Mr Ghorbani is an elite athlete in the Olympic sport of handball, who has won national championships and represented Iran,” she said.

“He is also a skilled researcher with a Master’s Degree in Sports Science and Physical Education. And in 2012, he was awarded a silver medal for best invention at the Taipei International Invention Show and Technomart for an ergonomic running machine that he designed.

“Had Mr Ghorbani been born in Australia he could have strived to be an Olympic representative with a career in sports medicine research and development.”

Soon after joining the Sydney Uni handball team, Mr Ghorbani trialed for and was selected to play for a NSW representative team and he was a part of the Sydney Uni team that won the National Club Championship and qualified for the Oceania Club Championships in New Caledonia in June. Mr Ghorbani is unlikely to join them, however, as living in Australia on a bridging visa means he is unable to travel overseas. But he still holds hope after lodging a ministerial intervention request to be granted an exception.

If granted refugee status and eventually citizenship, Mr Ghorbani hopes to represent Australia at an Olympic Games and develop a career in sports science research.

“I would like to study more,” he said, “and make lots of research in the field of sports medicine, especially in knee surgery and ankle surgery in Australia.”

Sydney Uni Handball Club president and men’s team goalkeeper Pascal Winkler said Mr Ghorbani had fit in well with the team and shown himself to be a hard worker.

“He has obviously come from quite different circumstances, being a refugee, but he has fit in very quickly,” he said.

“He has impressed everyone as he is always keen and enthusiastic. He is always helping other players and he has a real hunger to try and prove himself. I would say he is really well respected for that. He has displayed a lot of characteristics that people would like to say are known as being Aussie traits.”