Elijah Buol, an ANU law student and 2019 Queensland Local Hero, will contest the national Local Hero category in the Australian of the Year Awards which will be announced in Canberra on Friday 25 January.
Elijah, who arrived in Australia as an unaccompanied child refugee and has spent his young life helping and amplifying the voices of other marginalised people, claimed the state category in November 2018.
“It is a great honour to be recognised for my service to a state and country that has given me such hope,” the father of four says.
“I arrived [from South Sudan] in 2002 with nothing but a bag of hope and aspirations to change my life as a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor.
“I am indeed very proud to be Australian and to call Australia my home; a home which has given me an opportunity to realize my potential, aspirations and hopes rooted in principles of a fair-go to all who dare to dream.
“This honour confirmed to me that Australia is a great country with abundant opportunities and is where aspirations are realised. It is very important for all Australians to extend this greatness to the voiceless and marginalised members in our society particularly young people from indigenous, refugee and migrant communities who need our support most.”
Elijah says over the past 16 years he has seen many members of minority groups being forced to continuously prove their Australianness and pride in being Australian.
“This award acts as an inspiration to those whose hopes have been shadowed by non-inclusive rhetoric. It encourages them to be resilient, aim high, participate and maintain Australian values imbedded in our vibrant diversity,” Elijah says.
“My hope is that one day my four children won’t have to fight just to be seen as Australian or to struggle to find a sense of belonging because of being judged by the colour of their skin or cultural affiliations. I want their actions as Australians to be the benchmark by which they are judge by society.”
Teacher and ANU Law lecturer, Christie Gardiner, says Elijah is highly deserving of this award.
“Elijah is quickly rising to the task of mastering the complexities of Australian law and the legal system,” she says.
“His community spirit shows in the way he supports and encourages other law students.
“Elijah is clearly dedicated to a future in law and law reform, and is an excellent example of the calibre of law students studying at the ANU.”
Elijah, who’s a Director of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, studies his Juris Doctor from his home in Queensland.
He’s recently completed subjects including Torts and Civil Litigation and Dispute Management A and will shortly sit his exams for Torts and Civil Litigation and Dispute Management B.
“I am passionate about principles of social justice and access to legal services for all and studying a Juris Doctor from a world leading university allows me to advance my passion for the legal issues that I most care about,” Elijah explains.
“I am very proud and privileged to be part of the ANU community where innovation and excellence in teaching and learning is second to none. The experiences have so far been highly rewarding. As a student at the ANU College of Law, I have engaged with and learnt from the best minds and scholars from a world-leading university.
“I’m proud to attending the university with its motto, first to learn the nature of things.”
The ANU College of Law congratulates Elijah on this important recognition and wishes him will as he continues to advocate for the rights of all in the community.
The Australian National University’s School of Art and Design and MakerSpace designed the awards, while the School of Music created the fanfare and theme music.