After graduating Year 12 at Marden Senior College, Jemal Mussa secured a 12 month traineeship with SAPOL in July 2015. The opportunity presented itself when the 24-year-old was experiencing homelessness and the St John’s Youth Services linked him to the Ladder St Vincent Street facility providing accommodation for young people and employment opportunities. Following the completion of his traineeship, Jemal was offered a permanent role with SAPOL and is currently studying Public Management at the Flinders University.
Jemal’s exceptional work in the community where he grew up in has earned him the Pride of Australia Medal. When he journeyed back to Ethiopia for eight weeks in August 2016 to reunite with his parents and family whom he hadn’t seen for 15 years, Jemal wanted to give back to the children in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. His vision was supported by the West Torrens Birkalla FC team, Adelaide Victory and the coach for the Adelaide Thunder FC under 15s team, who donated their soccer equipment. “I resonate with the children because I know what they are going through. I knew that as soon as I had the opportunity to go back home, I wanted to bring some joy in their lives through soccer like it did for me,” he said. Jemal managed to raise over $3,000 to cover the cost of sending the donated soccer gear to the children. The funds were also used to further purchase jerseys and prizes for a soccer tournament he had arranged for them to participate in.
Jemal fled Ethiopia at the age of eight alongside his older sister, niece and nephew. Moving to Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is when Jemal’s involvement with soccer began. He recalls coaches Mahad Ali and John Mwara from the Mathare Youth Sport Association playing a significant role in guiding and supporting him to attend school, and remaining clear of the high rate of drug and criminal activity the city was experiencing. “Soccer was an outlet which allowed me to cope with what was going on in my life at the time. They looked after me and I am incredibly grateful to them. They taught me the essential skills of soccer, but most importantly the value of team work and believing in myself,” he said.
It wasn’t until three years later when Jemal and his family were moved to the refugee camp in Kakuma by the United Nations. “We resided there for seven years. It wasn’t the best place to live; it was overcrowded, the conditions were poor, it was an unsafe environment and the lifestyle was low,” he said. The unsafe setting of the camp is what prompted the family to move back to Nairobi, where Jemal’s sister was able to source employment at a cafe and work diligently to provide an income for her younger family members. “At this stage, it was difficult because we didn’t receive any support. My sister had to work extremely hard to ensure we were able to focus on our education,” he said.
In July 2010, the family was granted a humanitarian visa to move to Australia and although the initial cultural shock was a challenge for Jemal, soccer was an avenue which made the settlement experience easier. He is now in his second year of playing for Adelaide Victory, having played for the Adelaide Olympic and Western Strikers soccer clubs previously.
Jemal is a finalist for the Channel 9 Young Achiever Awards, which will be presented on the 28th of April 2017.