Back your neighbour: Hieng's story

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Hieng Lim in front of a blue wall

Hieng Lim was just eight years old when he fled Cambodia’s genocidal Khmer Rouge regime with his brothers and sisters in the early 1980s.

Today, the trained lawyer and mediator works to build strong, safe and harmonious communities with the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood.

For Hieng, this is more than just a job, as he often finds himself helping refugees and other marginalised people overcome trauma and discrimination.

“Everyone seeking asylum in Australia has enormous potential to contribute if they’re given the chance,” said Hieng, whose siblings include midwives, a doctor and a graphic artist.

Yarra is joining many other Australian councils in supporting the Back Your Neighbour campaign, which tells the stories of people who have found a safer life in Australia and are now giving back to the community.

The campaign is urging the Federal Government not to withdraw essential support services for refugees.

“Just like me, a lot of these people have this crunching of traumatic experiences that will need to be dealt with in the coming years,” said Hieng, who is concerned others won't get the support they need.

“We’re talking about them witnessing all kinds of horrible things, being child soldiers, and more. That’s traumatic. How can we just say, `now get on with your life’?”

Hieng is hopeful Australians will come together to support refugees as they work at building a new life in this country.

“In Australia we are generous when we know someone’s tried their best,” he said. 



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