The Victorian Multicultural Commission has recognised Swinburne’s Bwe Thay for his refugee advocacy work.
Mr Thay, Migrant Student and Community Liaison Officer at Swinburne, was highly commended in the Emerging Leadership in Multiculturalism Award category.
The award recognises newly arrived migrants and refugees who have contributed to harmony and diversity in Victoria through outstanding leadership and a dedication to voluntary community service.
“The recognition for my work is a humbling experience. To be honest, I am lost for words,” says Mr Thay.
“All I can say is that it gives me a special moment for reflection and to share this joyous moment to thank the amazing people who have inspired and supported me.
“It also shows that more can be done to empower our new and emerging communities. Through my volunteering capacity I often attend meetings and events after work hours to speak to our communities about the benefit of education, sometimes one can lose sight of the bigger picture and burnout a bit, so I am truly grateful.”
A career of compassion
After arriving in Australia in 2009 as a refugee from Burma, Mr Thay held a number of community roles before becoming a Pathways counsellor at Swinburne’s Croydon campus in 2012. He has been Migrant Student and Community Liaison Officer since 2016.
Drawing from his own experience, he says that it is important to acknowledge that anyone can become a refugee due to circumstances out of their control.
“Ten years ago I was a stateless person, no identity, limited options in life, living in a refugee camp. I had very little material or financial possessions when I first came to Australia, all I had was a dream that if given a second chance in life I would work hard so that I could be a blessing for those around me,” says Mr Thay.
“Through education, I have been able to rebuild my life and inspire many in our communities. Our migrant communities have so much potential to play a critical role for the future workforce of Australia and it is only right if we can assist them by raising their aspirations and guiding them to achieve their dreams through education.
“We all have a social responsibility to be compassionate and to support and care for those who need us.”
Working at Swinburne
In his role at Swinburne, Mr Thay supports refugees to access higher education.
“My role at Swinburne is, in a way, the practical side of my passion,” he says.
“This role gives me the opportunity to work collaboratively with professional staff that provide student services and academic staff across the university, from the Migrant English or trade programs in PAVE, to higher education, to our migrant alumni community.”
He says the Migrant Aspiration programs at Swinburne have been able to reach out and transform hundreds of lives.
“The programs we have developed complement each other and fit beautifully into the migrant student life cycle. This is a simple and effective model that makes Swinburne stand out as a leader among its peers across Australia.”
“I am proud to say that we are not just welcoming our local migrant communities to study with us, but we have various programs developed to engage with them and to ensure that they can thrive academically and develop professionally.”