I’m Kanya, I was born in Burma. I don’t know exactly when as I have never had a birth certificate.
But everyone has to have a date of birth, so I chose 1 January 1989.
I don’t remember my father, and my mother died when I was a teenager. I went out to work to support myself as I had no family. I crossed the border and worked as a waitress in Thailand because there was no work in Burma and I had no family there either.
I was so excited when a lady came to the restaurant where I worked and told me that she needed girls to go to waitress jobs in Australia. I thought it would be the beginning of a new life for me.
I arrived in Australia, having travelled on the plane with 5 other girls, all of us excited about our new life. The lady, ‘Mam’ organised everything, including our passports. We were met at the airport by a friendly man. He collected our passports from us to keep them safe.
3 years later, I was still being held a prisoner in a building with about 20 other girls. There was no restaurant job. I had to have sex with 6 or more men every day. I was never paid any money by the boss man. We never left the building, there were guards on the doors. I started to get sick, but the man said I could not go to a doctor. He gave me medicine but it didn’t make me better. One day, I asked one of my clients if he would help me get out. I told the guards I just wanted to get some fresh air. I walked out of the building and then jumped in Mark’s car. I told him I needed to go to a doctor and he took me to hospital.
The doctors told me I had HIV and I thought my life was over. The doctor introduced me to Mary, a social worker. She helped me contact HALC and came with me to almost every appointment with the solicitor. Eventually I trusted the solicitor enough to tell her my full story. She helped me to apply for a Protection Visa, because even though my life in Australia had been bad, now I had HIV, I didn’t know what I would do if I had to go back to Burma, where I had nobody and hadn’t lived since I was a child. I couldn’t go back to Thailand because I had no right to live there.
I now have a permanent visa, and my life is so different. I have been to English classes, made friends and I work in a shop that my friend runs. I have my own small place to live, and Australia is my home, a home I now love.
My solicitor at HALC is helping me with my citizenship application and I am practicing for the test. I can’t wait to get a real passport of my own!
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[all names and information that might identify any individual have been changed for confidentiality purposes]