Dr Berhan Ahmed

African–Australian community leader

2009 VIC Australian of the Year

At the age of 15, Berhan Ahmed became a Sudanese refugee. He was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship to study in Egypt and, in 1987, came to Australia as a refugee with little English. He began working as a tram conductor to learn about Australian society and practice English. From these humble beginnings he has gone on to complete his PhD in Agricultural Science and is now a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He has been instrumental in building bridges between the African and wider Australian communities, forging relationships with politicians, community, business leaders and philanthrophic organisations. He encourages people to focus on the things that unite us as human beings, not the superficial differences. He initiated and implemented a number of projects for Melbourne’s African community to raise the standard of living, educational engagement and achievement, level of employment, and integration. He has personally supported many newly-arrived refugees, and is always there to offer guidance and a helping hand through the difficult process of arriving in a new country after traumatic experience.

His core philosophy is that every individual deserves a fair go and a chance to make a better life. He actively encourages young people in shaping their own futures with a confidence that comes from a sense of pride in their identity.