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Dr Siyat Abdi is a senior systemic advocate at Kin, formerly the Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre, where he is able to follow his passion in giving back to the community.

“Migrant communities are disadvantaged in many different areas of life—in my role I feel I can give back to the community and this is something that keeps me inspired.”

Siyat himself has faced many challenges in his life.

Blind from birth, Siyat was a successful teacher for many years. He arrived in South Australia as a skilled migrant in 2004 on a scholarship to study Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies.

He wanted to pursue his teaching career in Australia, but was originally rejected by the Teachers Registration Board.

“The focus was on my disability, not on all the things I had achieved!” Siyat said.

Siyat appealed against the decision and went on to become the first blind teacher in South Australia. He later moved to Western Australia and taught Introduction to Teaching and Early Childhood Education at Curtin University.

Another challenge was migration. Having arrived from Kenya as a skilled migrant he struggled to get permanent residency because of his disability. He was only able to achieve this after 10 years of struggle, in 2017.

None of this has dampened his ambitions, however. Siyat is contemplating doing a post-doctorate degree in law and is also currently working on two books, one on leadership and the other a novel.

But his main passion is still helping and advising others on how to overcome challenges and achieve goals.

“My advice for migrants and those trying to put down roots is to find settlement and development networks for support.

“This really makes a difference—don’t feel isolated, get involved with the rest of the community and make the most of what is good from others.

Siyat advises not to look back.

“Don’t dwell on the past but reflect on the future and all the possibilities that it holds.

“Always ask yourself what you are going to do next — don’t worry about the past. You leap forward, feel progress in every step.”

Page reviewed 20 October 2020