Student Volunteer of the Year (Postgraduate)
"I have always been motivated to make my community and the world a better place," says Elijah Buol.
A former refugee who lost both his parents by the age of nine in the Sudan War, Elijah's story is one of survival and success in the face of incredible challenges.
"I have survived on the support of those who extended their helping hands during my struggle and journey," he says. "That has been my own motivation and inspiration to always give back to the community."
A criminologist who also serves as Director of Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, Elijah spends much of his time helping young and disadvantaged community members integrate successfully into Australian society.
He is currently studying for a Juris Doctor at ANU and has held senior and volunteer positions in the community and not-for-profit sectors. His advocacy was instrumental in helping remove children under 18 from adult prisons in Queensland. His volunteer work has led to him receiving multiple awards for advocacy and community services, including the 2019 Queensland Local Hero award and the Order of Australia Medal.
"The work that I have been doing with African-Australians, particularly in Queensland, is to empower them to have a voice and also participate and contribute to the wider community.
"A lot of African-Australians either grew up in a war-torn country or refugee camps, and they come facing issues like culture shock, the language barrier, and then unemployment and problems with education. A lot of them have been traumatised by the war or through their experiences in refugee camps.
"I have been working to support and help ensure they don't just successfully settle but also successfully contribute to mainstream society."
Elijah says volunteering is important because when we hold the hand of those who are struggling, we truly make an impact in their lives.
"Mother Teresa said that the impact we make on people is like a pencil for the hand of God to write a new chapter. So when we give back, when we make an impact on others, we are writing a new chapter in their life and making an impact on the future."