Growing up ‘ethnic’ in Australia, SBS and its iconic broadcaster Les Murray – who died five years ago next month – was a constant presence in my life. But it was only recently that I discovered Les, like me, came to Australia as a child refugee. His family fled war and Soviet occupation in post-World War II Hungary.
SBS football commentator Les Murray. Source: SBS News
I was 12 – the same age as Les had been – when I came to Australia on the UNHCR Humanitarian Refugee Visa in 1999. My parents – an ethnic Croat and an ethnic Serb – had met in Yugoslavia and had four children. It was an idyllic childhood, until the civil war broke out.
As Les once said: “Refugees, perhaps more than other immigrants, are more likely to make a positive contribution to their new country, driven by a need to give something in return for being given a chance to start again after a terrible experience”.
Danijel Malbasa (far right) with his siblings. Source: Supplied , Danijel Malbasa
What I loved about Les is that he did not let his refugee identity define all that he was. He was a respected broadcaster, journalist, and football analyst. A professional contributing to the Australian society in his chosen field, in his own right.
Les normalised his refugee difference without ever once compromising who he was or what he stood for, or the message he was not so much selling but offering. He did this through the beautiful game, where cultural difference is negated by a round-ball game. It was the game to humanize the world, to welcome the strangers who were different colors or races or gender expressions or sexualities.
I remember SBS for its risqué foreign movies played every night alongside Queer as Folk – a show I would secretly watch, quickly switching to mainstream channels when a family member would walk into the room.
Les and SBS championed and normalized cultural differences. I switched on SBS and I was home.
Danijel spends his time speaking out for refugees and asylum seekers, both at a judicial and advocacy level. Source: Supplied , Danijel Malbasa
I am very honored to be the inaugural recipient of the which seeks to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees who are helping shine a light on the situation of forcibly displaced people.
Australians remember that our country gave the world the Refugee Convention. Our signature brought it to life. What a proud legacy. We set the standard as decent international citizens for other countries to follow. That work was championed by Doc Evatt, an Australian judge.
Danijel Malbasa believes the narrative about refugees is starting to shift in Australia. Source: Supplied , Aaron Francis
It is time to go back to our proud roots as a nation of welcome and standard-setting. It is time to re-frame who and what a refugee is. And I am so proud to play a small part in this re-framing.