16 February 2018, MCG, Melbourne, Australia
It is a great honour to be asked to share my story of my relationship with Michael Gordon.
I keep thinking and dreaming of Michael and the many things that were between us.
It is impossible to find the words that describe who he was to me.
He was the closest friend a person could have.
He was a father figure. A brother. A role model and he was my colleague when I worked at The Age in Information Technology.
He introduced me to his family Robyn, Sarah and Scott and I became a part of his family.
He helped me with job opportunities.
He was always there for me and I was there for him.
I could pick up the phone any time and speak to him.
We would meet for coffee, go for lunch and dinner.
He would take me on drives to Phillip Island.
He took me to the footy and to the beaches where he went surfing.
He discussed his designs for the holiday house he was building.
He introduced me to the Australian way of life.
We hugged each other whenever we met.
We sent each other messages. When I was feeling down, he would tap me on the shoulder and say, 'You're OK. You're strong.'
We would talk about everything, or we said nothing and enjoyed each other's company. Or we would just have a laugh.
What can I say? We connected.
We first met on Nauru in the computer lab at Nauru College, where I was a teacher of English and computer science.
The connection was instant. I could feel it. I was appointed his interpreter.
We spent a lot of time walking around the island.
He wondered if my name was Ali or Sir, because everywhere I went, the students called me Sir.
He saw how they ran up to me and how we walked together.
He saw that the locals respected me because I taught their children and because I was engaged with the community. He understood my achievement.
On Nauru, I taught myself English and Computer Science.
I did not waste my time. But I had no family. Michael could truly hear me. Until then no one outside Nauru knew me. No one had told my story.
And because he was there, and spent time with me and with those inside the camp and because he listened he wrote the truth about our despair and our aspirations.
He did not see me as a victim.
Our friendship had nothing to do with this.
It was not based on sympathy.
He was human and he saw me as human.
I want to get the words right as if Michael is listening and can feel what I am saying.
We were born in separate countries and came from different cultures.
I was Hazara but it made no difference.
Our friendship was not about the past.
It was about now and about the future.
It was about total trust and about two human beings.
I deeply miss him.