Former Afghan refugee wins Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship

A former Afghan refugee has been awarded this year’s Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship to study at the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney.

Twenty-three-year-old Zabi Malik, from the Hazara community, fled Afghanistan with his family because of conflict and persecution, arriving in Australia aged nine. 

Growing up in Adelaide, Zabi dreamed of being an actor but did not initially pursue a career in the entertainment industry when he left school.

 “Being where I’m from, the entertainment industry is not accepted or appreciated within our community, which is why I always thought of it as just a dream and nothing more,” Zabi said.

“However, after going through some hard times, one night I finally decided that I’m going to give acting a go and I looked for acting classes.”

Today he is an up-and-coming actor and film maker. He studied at the New York Film Academy and has directed and starred in various short films. 

“My reaction to winning the scholarship was surreal. I was really happy because all my life I have wanted to do this and now I get the opportunity to actually learn the whole craft and what better place to be than one of the best film schools in Australia.”

The Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship was established with the generous support of Francesca Beddie, AFTRS, Australia for UNHCR and the Public Education Foundation to help the recipient develop their storytelling talents.  

The scholarship is worth more than $75,000 and covers full tuition for a Bachelor of Arts program, living expenses and internship opportunities at Australia for UNCHR.

AFTRS CEO, Dr Nell Greenwood, said: “50 years ago AFTRS was created to be a transformative force in Australian screen culture – and it’s thanks to the determination and talent of creators like Zabi that we are able to continue this mission. I am delighted to welcome Zabi to AFTRS and look forward to seeing how we can support his talent and big dreams.”

Australia for UNHCR CEO Trudi Mitchell said Zabi was a stand-out candidate this year.

 “Zabi has shown a unique talent and passion for storytelling and hopes to use this opportunity to inspire others in his community to follow their dreams and ambitions,” Trudi Mitchell said. “His story is inspiring and I look forward to following his journey.”

Francesca Beddie is honoured to be part of this collaboration, with its commitment to bringing more diversity into the creative industries and fostering the voice of refugees. “The scholarship is named for my parents, who understood the importance of Australia being an engaged international citizen. I congratulate Zabi for his enthusiasm and drive and can’t wait to see his films,” she said.

The Public Education Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Somers, said: “Zabi’s passion for the creative industries and storytelling is inspiring. It’s exciting to work with our partners on this important scholarship that provides opportunities for the development of diverse and creative voices.”

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