Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union

 

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Harmony Day, celebrating diversity: Haris' story

Haris Kumbaric is a service technician at ECL Group, repairing and maintaining petrol bowsers. The father of two young children is originally from Bosnia- Herzegovenia, as is his wife Alma, whom he met here. Haris arrived in Australia on June 28, 1995 at age 19 with his parents and sister. They had fled their town Bosanski Brod on the Croatian border in 1992 after Milosevic Government forces invaded. “That first night over 1000 shells fell on my town. As we watched from over the river, my town was burning,” he said.

They fled to Germany, where they lived for three years with other Bosnian refugee families in Berlin. First they stayed with a friend, then in barracks for refugees and finally in a three-bedroom apartment with two other families. Haris was not permitted to go to senior secondary school, but mastered German at a language school and got a job as a kitchen hand- cleaner at Burger King. He saved for their airfare to Canada or Australia, with Australia accepting them (after an initial refusal) as refugees when a cousin in Melbourne sponsored them.

“Australia is my place 100 per cent now. We lost our country but now I feel I have a country. Here it doesn’t matter where you come from – workers’ rights are workers’ rights everywhere. We’ve come here to work, we all want to do our best, we’re all honest taxpayers. We need unionism, it is something for everyone.”

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