Our Stories

David's Story

Scenario 1 of 7

Coming to Australia

Now you’re 24 and it’s 1949. You’re stateless and you’re living in Germany, the country responsible for the genocide of your people. You desperately need a new life. You apply for visas to the United States and Australia. You receive the news that Australia will accept you and your wife. Your father, twin brother and his wife and child also miraculously survived the war but have not been accepted into any country yet.


Go to Australia


Wait for your brother’s papers to come through

Some people have to wait years or generations, to be resettled in a new country. We took the opportunity, knowing that we could sponsor my remaining family after arriving in Australia. And that is what we did. A few months after arriving in Australia, my wife and I sponsored my father, brother and his wife and child and we were reunited in Australia.

David came to Australia on a Dutch refugee ship paid for by the UN. He had a boarding pass, a landing permit and a document allowing him to stay permanently. He came to Australia with his wife, and his father and twin brother followed a year later.

Did you know that more people are now forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations than at any time since the end of the Holocaust and WWII?

Learn More

As of 31 December 2015, more than 65 million people were forcibly displaced. Of these, 21.3 million were refugees and 3.2 million people were seeking asylum. More than half of the world’s UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-mandated refugees come from just three countries: Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. In addition, more than half of the people displaced are children.

For many refugees, resettlement is a highly appropriate solution. However, there are far too few resettlement places available. Fewer than 1% of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate get access to resettlement each year. Of those identified conservatively by UNHCR as being in need of resettlement, more than 85% are not resettled.

For more information, see here.

Scenario 3 of 7

Navigating a new life

You need to work out how to navigate your new life in Australia. Everything is different here. How do you, for example:

  • find a place to live?
  • find out where to buy food?
  • transfer your qualifications in Australia?
  • find out how to get a job?
  • find out how to get medical help?
  • And much much more!!

Ask a co-worker


Drop into the office of a government department


Ask a stranger


Ask somebody from your community

You have only just arrived. You might not have a job yet!
What office? How do you get there? Mobile phones and internet didn't exist in 1950! David didn’t speak much English when he arrived.
It’s intimidating to ask for a helping hand from a stranger, especially since you have only just arrived in Australia.
Some refugees arrive in Australia not knowing anybody and without any community. Luckily, David had a relative who moved to Australia in the 1920s, before WWII. There was also an established Jewish community. When David and his wife arrived, his relative helped them settle in. He had a small business in Carlton, where lots of Jews lived, and they let David and his wife live in a small room above the shop.

Let’s hear from David about navigating a new life

If the video does not load please visit it here: https://vimeo.com/294282288/64e868f6d6

David's thoughts about overcoming the challenges of rebuilding his life in Australia – “I had to work very hard when I first arrived in Australia, and I passed this on to my children. My philosophy is that if you are trying to learn something new, and your memory can’t absorb it quickly, you have to sit longer. That’s how it is for me. If I’m not so able to do something, I’m persistent and hardworking.

Did you know that refugees and asylum seekers often leave everything behind in one life and begin their new life in Australia, which has different laws, different education and health systems, different languages and different cultural expectations?

Learn More

For people who seek asylum and refuge this process is all the more difficult due to the circumstances under which they depart their home country. Some of the documented challenges that face people from refugee backgrounds in Australia are:

  • finding affordable housing
  • finding employment
  • language and communication barriers
  • racism and discrimination
  • community attitudes
  • impact of disrupted education on schooling
  • distance and lack of communication with families in the home country and/ or countries of asylum (particularly if the family remains in a conflict situation)
  • ongoing mental health issues due to trauma, including survivor guilt
  • financial difficulties
  • separation from family members; living in blended families
  • changes in roles and status of family members.

For more information, see the Roads to Refuge website.

Scenario 5 of 7

David pursuing his passion for Pharmacy

Once you have enough money for your basic needs, do you pursue the profession that you have studied?


Of course, you haven’t stopped thinking about working as a pharmacist, so you apply for pharmacy jobs


Yes, you apply and easily find a job in pharmacy


Yes, you try, but there are too many barriers. For example, you have to re-train in Australia

In March 1951, I applied to the pharmacy board to be registered as a pharmacist. My application was rejected. I was told I had to learn English and do many exams, including an exam on British history and science. This was beyond me. My wife became pregnant and we had a son. I focused on providing financially for my family instead.

Let's hear from David about becoming a pharmacist in Australia

If the video does not load please visit it here: https://vimeo.com/294282311/5b01df9345

After receiving the doctor’s letter of recommendation the Board decided that David could become a pharmacist in Australia. Despite having already completed a full pharmacy degree in Germany, the Board told him that he had to complete a 4 year course and work as a trainee pharmacist. David took 3 years to complete the 4 year degree, and graduated from pharmacy in 1958, aged 33. His son also became a pharmacist.

Let's hear from David about his passion for pharmacy

If the video does not load please visit it here: https://vimeo.com/294282903/dc1d7fe122

Quote from David:

“Frances (my second child) was born in 1958 and I graduated in 1958. Frances was born to a pharmacist and Issy (my first child) was born to a metal worker.”

Here is a paragraph about David in the book about the history of the Victorian College of Pharmacy!

Scenario 7 of 7

A life lived to its fullest!

You have now lived in Australia for 68 years! You are 93! What does your life look like now?

David has 2 children, Issy and Frances. Each have 2 children, and Isi’s eldest child Ilana has 2 children. David is a great-grandfather! David continues to volunteer at the Holocaust Centre teaching Jewish and non-Jewish students about the Holocaust. He has a very strong appreciation of democracy.

Let's hear David's message to the Australian community

If the video does not load please visit it here: https://vimeo.com/294282927/d1d04f5e36