More than ‘a fair go’

Courtesy of The Torch - 10/11/2011

More than ‘a fair go’

torch_10112011Residents know him as a west ward Labor councillor, but before Karl (Khodr) Saleh was elected to Canterbury City Council, he’d fled war-torn Lebanon to settle in Australia.

In an effort to encourage members of the community to tell their tales to record the area’s migration history, Mr Saleh shared his story with the Torch.

In 1975, when Mr Saleh – who was living in Beirut – started high school, the Lebanese civil war began.

Photo right: New life happiness: Karl (Khodr) Saleh, with his wife Nadia and two of their four children, escaped war-torn Beirut before settling in Australia.

It was a struggle to finish my education, a struggle just to survive,” he said. Despite the hardship, Mr Saleh finished his studies and worked as a journalist.

After 12 years of wartime conditions, which included the loss of his younger brother, Mr Saleh migrated to Australia and set up home in Hurlstone Park.

“When I arrived here in 1985, the first thing I thought was I would finish my studies and start a new life,” he said.

Mr Saleh enrolled in a University of Sydney language studies course but dropped out after a year due to financial difficulties and language barriers.

“Instead I enrolled in TAFE for a bilingual interpreter part-time course,” he said.

In 1988, Mr Saleh returned to Lebanon to visit his family and on this visit met Nadia. They married in 1989 and returned to Australia where they had four children Mohsen, Kamal, Rana and Hady. After moving into a Riverwood housing estate with his family, Mr Saleh became involved in volunteer work with Riverwood Community Centre and later began the Riverwood Arabic Australian Association which he is still involved with today.

In 2004, Mr Saleh became a councillor. “Looking back on my journey, I feel very proud,” he said. “I think it is really important to acknowledge […] Australia not only giving me a fair go but also giving me an important opportunity to have a go.”

Canterbury Council has partners with the NSW Migration Heritage Centre to research and document the area’s migration heritage through oral histories and personal mementos. Then participants will be selected for the project. Details: 9789 9472

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