In Ethiopia, Abulla Agwa was imprisoned five times — the first being at the age of 16 when he was beaten for three days and had to take his Year 10 exams behind bars.

By Amanda Hoh (ABC News) |

When Abulla Agwa voted in his home country of Ethiopia, it was often done while standing at the end of a gun barrel.

“When we went for election, there was vote rigging, intimidation and sometimes you have to vote through gunpoint,” he said.

But when he spoke with 702 ABC Sydney ahead of last Saturday’s election, the former refugee and resident of Blacktown was looking forward to putting pencil to ballot paper.

“In Australia, you are free, you make your own decision by yourself,” Mr Agwa said.

“I’m ready for this election to see a stronger Australia.”

He said he wanted to see the economy improved and better programs to help families in need.

Some of those families are among the thousands of refugees Mr Abulla Agwa has helped resettle in western Sydney.

He works as a coordinator at SydWest Multicultural Services which holds information sessions, English classes and organizes social groups which reduce isolation and help refugees settle more successfully in Australia.

Surviving decades of persecution

Mr Abulla Agwa knows first-hand the struggle many go through to set up life in Australia.

In Ethiopia he was imprisoned five times — the first being at the age of 16 when he was beaten for three days and had to take his Year 10 exams behind bars.

Later, he was arrested several times after calling for basic human rights and for speaking out against the government where he was a senior bureaucrat and later an independent politician.

Continue reading this story on ABC News
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