Nine years ago, Hsar Thein arrived in Australia after growing up in a refugee camp on the Thailand-Burma border.
He was 16, couldn’t speak English and was thrust into a completely unfamiliar society. But with a lot of hard work and sheer determination, it didn’t take long for his talents to blossom.
Four years ago, Mr Thein got a horticultural internship at Werribee Park through a partnership program with AMES Australia and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. He impressed Parks Victoria staff with his work ethic so much he was offered a traineeship.
He was recently appointed as a full-time Parks Victoria ranger at Werribee Park, and is believed to be Australia’s first refugee park ranger.
Werribee Park chief ranger and mentor, James Brincat said Mr Thein’s achievement was all the more outstanding because of the challenges he faced. He said like Mr Thein, many refugees had spent their entire childhood in refugee camps and had missed out on the education other children receive.
“They basically have to start again when they come to Australia. What you would start at four years old, they start at the age of 16, or 20 years old,” Mr Brincat said.
“For a young man to come to a new country, learn a new language, keep up his studies and become a park ranger is an amazing journey. We’re very proud of him, and he’s a real inspiration to other young refugees.”
AMES Australia chief executive Cath Scarth said Mr Thein’s story was a great example of the skills and resourcefulness refugees bring with them to Australia.
Mr Thien added: “Getting a full-time job as a ranger is a dream come true. Working with nature – with plants and wild animals – is my passion and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”
The Werribee resident is also a youth leader and helps other young adults in the Karen community.