Telum Talks To...Abdul Hekmat, Refugee Affairs Correspondent at AAP
Interview

Telum Talks To...Abdul Hekmat, Refugee Affairs Correspondent at AAP

By Kristy Nguyen

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I used to work as a Freelance Journalist for different newspapers in Australia and mostly wrote about refugee stories, bringing inside knowledge on the lived experience of refugees. I came as a refugee myself, but I also worked in the refugee sector for more than a decade as a youth worker, connecting young people with education and employment.

Is there anything you’d like to share about your own experience?
I came as a refugee like others who came by boat and spent time in a detention centre. I went through the temporary protection visa other refugees have gone through, then I was given a permanent protection visa, and then citizenship. Since I’ve worked with different kinds of people from different backgrounds, that enhanced my understanding of my own experience but also the experience of others.

How does this background inform your work at AAP?
You have to check facts and be accurate but also you have to be impartial. Obviously, you’ve got your own experience but at the end of the day what matters is the objective reporting.

The interviews I conduct are very exploratory. I try to find out what people actually want to say and be surprised by it, rather than have something in my mind that I should try to find out. I need to establish a rapport with the person so they trust me to be able to tell their story.

What stories interest you most?
My aim has been to bring the voices of refugees to the public arena to be able to educate people and be able to learn. Refugees bring assets that are really not tapped, particularly their resilience in the obstacles and challenges they have overcome.

We want to share these stories with the Australian public because they remain mostly invisible. The purpose is to bring really colourful stories of people from diverse backgrounds. It adds diversity to the Australian media landscape, but also a bit of humanity.

Why is it important to share these human stories?
Of course, politics around refugee affairs has dominated the last decade, and there are stories that illustrate the impact of policies on people separated from their families. But the refugee story is much bigger than that.

Refugees are part of the Australian story. There are artists, business people, entrepreneurs, and people who are doing great community work, and it’s important to tell their stories to build connections and enlighten readers.

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Abdul Hekmat

Refugee Affairs Correspondent

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Australian Associated Press

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Australian Associated Press Sydney

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