Australia: LNP candidate Leila Abukar recounts her harrowing life in Somalia

THIS may be a short state election campaign, but for LNP candidate Leila Abukar, it has been a long and harrowing journey


LNP candidate for Yeerongpilly Leila Abukar campaigning in Moorooka. Picture: Darren England

Her mother, seeing the horror from their home, silently bundled Leila and her six siblings and other family members into a Land Cruiser before roaring out the rear gate of the family’s compound.
As a 12-year-old, she fled the Somali capital of Mogadishu where militia murdered her father and brother during the bloody civil war.

They drove as far as they could before being forced to abandon the vehicle and join the exodus of millions of refugees across the barren African bush.

“We ran for seven days,’’ said the 40-year-old, who is contesting the seat of Yeerongpilly in Brisbane’s south. “We were running for our lives. We couldn’t think about anything but survival.’’

Fellow travellers taught them how to dig in the dry creek beds looking for water to keep them alive and there was a constant fear of lions and other predators during their trek to a vast United Nations refugee camp in Kenya.

Ms Abukar, who speaks seven languages, volunteered as an interpreter at the camp office and taught children. But the feisty teen’s campaigns against female circumcision and for birth control, created new threats. “I was only young but I could see things that I thought were wrong. Even though I did not have much power, I had a mouth to speak up,’’ she said.

LNP candidate for Yeerongpilly Leila Abukar campaigning in Moorooka. Pic Darren England.

As a 19-year-old, Ms Abukar was accepted into a “women at risk” refugee program run by the Australian Government. Arriving in Brisbane in 1997, she settled at Moorooka, with the help of the women’s volunteer group, Soroptimist International. Her family followed.

On her first day in Australia she took a job as an interpreter: “I needed to work to help my family. If you are healthy, you should work,’’ she said.

Ms Abukar has since graduated with a bachelor degree, post-graduate diploma and masters in international relations.

She also has many years’ experience as a community worker and advocate in the culturally and socially diverse area.

“I see running for parliament is just an extension of what I have been doing,’’ she said.

The single mother of Abdi, 18, and Diamond, 12, said her experiences had given her the strength, confidence and passion to help others.

“I want to be a loud voice for the community of Yeerongpilly. I want to give back,” she said.


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