When Ziagul Sultani accepted her multiple awards at the Katanning Senior High School valediction last month she received a loud cheer from the crowd.
The head of the school’s English department who presented her with prizes for mathematics, art, photography and automotive engineering, commented on her positive, friendly nature and wit.
It is this outlook that has helped Ziagul thrive in a foreign environment.
“In Katanning, everyone is friendly,” Ziagul said.
She said living in Katanning was different to life in the Kabul province of Afghanistan, where she left for Australia with her family when she was nine years old.
“There was some good and some very bad. Some things a young child shouldn’t see,” Ziagul said.
She grew up surrounded by strong women; her mother had to earn money and look after the family when her father travelled to Australia to prepare for the family’s arrival.
Starting primary school was difficult for her too. While the other students were more advanced, she was beginning to learn her ABC’s.
It did not deter Ziagul, but spurred her on to do better and encouraged her to help others in a similar position.
“When new kids would come to the high school I’d try and make them feel welcome because I knew how they felt and they were probably having the same tough time,” she said.
“So, I approached others and we made up a group to make the new arrivals feel more welcome and part of the school.”
She has three older sisters, a younger sister and younger brother and is planning to take a year off study before deciding on her future. “I am really grateful for the education I received here and I will be sad to leave,” she said.
Ziagul also had some advice for youngsters in a similar position.
“If I can do it, then you can do it too,” she said.