Rising up with two football-obsessed brothers, I’d awake bleary-eyed within the early hours of each morning to the sound of roaring soccer spectators emanating from our lounge.
The voice of Les Murray narrating stay soccer motion from Europe, and my brothers arguing over which crew was higher: Chelsea or Manchester United. Their ardour for the English Premier League rising so intense, it almost spilled into fist fights.
Such was the obsession with the gorgeous recreation in our family. 

Rising up ‘ethnic’ in Australia, SBS and its iconic broadcaster Les Murray – who died 5 years in the past subsequent month – had been a relentless presence in my life. However it was solely lately that I found Les, like me, got here to Australia as a toddler refugee. His household fled struggle and Soviet occupation in post-World Conflict II Hungary.

A man smiling

SBS soccer commentator Les Murray. Supply: SBS Information

I used to be 12 – the identical age as Les had been – after I got here to Australia on the UNHCR Humanitarian Refugee Visa in 1999. My dad and mom – an ethnic Croat and an ethnic Serb – had met in Yugoslavia and had 4 youngsters. It was an idyllic childhood, till civil struggle broke out.

Throughout his lifetime, Les made an incredible contribution to humanising the plight of refugees, later passing on this legacy to

As Les as soon as mentioned: “Refugees, maybe greater than different immigrants, usually tend to make a optimistic contribution to their new nation, pushed by a necessity to offer one thing in return for being given an opportunity to start out once more after a horrible expertise”.  

Four children are seated on a printed couch

Danijel Malbasa (far proper) along with his siblings. Supply: Provided / Danijel Malbasa

What I beloved about Les is that he didn’t let his refugee identification outline all that he was. He was a revered broadcaster, journalist, and soccer analyst. An expert contributing to the Australian society in his chosen discipline, in his personal proper. 

Throughout his time, he advocated for refugees, typically going towards the grain and the prevailing zeitgeist. However then, wasn’t SBS at all times the house for that?  

Les normalised his refugee distinction with out ever as soon as compromising who he was or what he stood for, or the message he wasn’t a lot promoting however providing. He did this by means of the gorgeous recreation, the place cultural distinction is negated by a round-ball recreation. It was the sport to humanise the world, to welcome the strangers who had been totally different colors or races or gender expressions or sexualities. 

Les did this on SBS, a spot the place distinction and uniqueness had been embraced.
Soccer was the ‘world recreation’ then, so rightly on SBS, in a lot the way in which is now. It was a recreation solely performed by so-called ‘wogs’ in Australia earlier than it turned mainstream. A recreation through which Adelaide United’s .

I keep in mind SBS for its risqué overseas motion pictures performed each night time alongside Queer as People – a present I’d secretly watch, shortly switching to mainstream channels when a member of the family would stroll into the room.


I additionally keep in mind the channel broadcasting exhibits that includes transgender rights icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and it being the house of all the things from a unusual Greek selection present to the Eurovision Tune Contest.

Les and SBS championed and normalised cultural variations. I switched on SBS and I used to be house.

Danijel Malbasa smiles at the bar table at court.

Danijel spends his time talking out for refugees and asylum seekers, each at a judicial and advocacy stage. Supply: Provided / Danijel Malbasa

I’m very honoured to be the inaugural recipient of the which seeks to recognise and have a good time the contribution of refugees who’re serving to shine a lightweight on the scenario of forcibly displaced individuals.

I consider the narrative regarding the way in which we discuss refugees and folks in search of asylum is beginning to shift in Australia. The Biloela group needed the Nadesalingam household to return again house to Bilo, and it occurred.
The Covid-19 pandemic additionally uncovered parallels with the refugee expertise: closed borders, separated households, emptied cabinets. Victorian bushfires and Queensland floods confirmed how we are able to turn into refugees in our personal nation. The Djokovic saga uncovered the plight of


Now, 6,000 humanitarian visas have been granted for these fleeing Ukraine, assist for the Motion For Afghanistan marketing campaign has resulted in a dedication to simply accept 16,500 new refugee visas for Afghan refugees. The brand new South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas – himself a grandson of refugees – drew inspiration from his refugee neighbours, the Alkhalil household, on the morning of his victory final month. 

Australians do not forget that our nation gave the world the Refugee Conference. Our signature introduced it to life. What a proud legacy. We set the usual as respectable worldwide residents for different nations to comply with. That work was championed by Doc Evatt, an Australian choose. 

Photo of Danijel Malbasa.

Danijel Malbasa believes the narrative about refugees is beginning to shift in Australia. Supply: Provided / Aaron FRANCIS

It’s time to return to our proud roots as a nation of welcome and standard-setting. It’s time to re-frame who and what a refugee is. And I’m so proud to play a small half on this re-framing. 

Refugee Week is held from 19 to 25 June.
Danijel Malbasa works as an industrial lawyer in Melbourne and is the inaugural recipient of the Australia for UNHCR – SBS Les Murray Award for Refugee Recognition.
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