LIFE in Iraq was not safe for Rokhsar Hussain and her sister.
Their home country, divided by political and economic turmoil, had a particularly volatile environment for women.
Refused refugee status himself, Miss Hussain's father was forced to let his daughters flee to a foreign country where they didn't speak the language and knew no one.
With a breaking heart and many tears he said goodbye to his daughters, not knowing if he would ever see them again, but taking solace in knowing they would at least be safe.
"He had to do whatever he could to protect us, he even let us go," Miss Hussain said.
"Even though it was like someone ripping out his heart, he wasn't going to take us home, he was willing to go home himself, but he wanted to know we would be safe."
The girls' mother and younger brother had already left Iraq 10 years ago and had ended up in Switzerland as asylum seekers.
The two girls and their father hoped they could be reunited with them, so they left Iraq for Syria to seek asylum themselves.
Once in Syria the United Nations knocked back their application with no explanation.
Unable to return to Iraq and unable to stay in Syria, Miss Hussain's sister approached the Australian embassy for refugee status, which ultimately saw them arrive in Devonport, Tasmania in 2007.
"When we got the embassy interview, I didn't even know there was a place called Tasmania so it was terrifying," Miss Hussain said.
"We looked at it on the map and it was like this tiny dot and I remember flying from Melbourne to Devonport, all I could see was the water and green and little houses and a lot of animals and I said to my sister `there are no people here, it is only going to be animals and nature, we are dead'."
Within two and a half years, the sisters had established a life for themselves and both started university.
But leaving her father behind and the hardships of carving out a life for herself in an alien land is something Miss Hussain will carry with her forever.
Because of these experiences Miss Hussain feels strongly about the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and has this message for Australians.
"The whole reason we left our own country is because we were unsafe, but I don't want people's sympathy," Miss Hussain said.
"I think people need to realise that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in general are strong and resilient people, people who are willing to do anything to survive.
"Whether you put the army or the navy in the waters and on the borders or you are going to send them to PNG, they are still going to be coming, because they will do anything to survive and that is a human right.
"If your life depends on it, you will do anything in your power to make your family safe.
"We are all connected and it's sad that people and governments can't see that.
"So before you judge people based on what the media represents to you, take the time to at least meet one person who's been through it - whether they are an asylum seeker, refugee, an old person or sick person.
"Take the time to personally talk to them and put yourself in their shoes, just for two seconds before you judge and make up your mind."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @jaynericho