ACT News

Canberran refugee reunited with his children thanks to local generosity

In an otherwise unremarkable corner of Canberra Airport, a human rights activist who fled beatings from the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe said a quiet and tearful prayer before embracing his children for the first time in four years.

Felix Machiridza sought refuge in Canberra with the assistance of the Movement for Democratic Change in 2010 before completing a degree, becoming a social worker with the Australian Red Cross, and starting a new life on the other side of the world. 

Felix Machiridza with his children from left, Christabel Tapiwa,14, Clarice Tanaka, 8, and  Clarence Takunda,13, arrived ...
Felix Machiridza with his children from left, Christabel Tapiwa,14, Clarice Tanaka, 8, and Clarence Takunda,13, arrived at Canberra International Airport after not seeing each other for four years. Photo: Melissa Adams

But despite helping undeprivileged families in Canberra, Mr Machiridza could not afford to reunite his own and used his musical talents to raise enough funds for their visa and travel expenses despite a constant fear any criticism of the Zimbabwe government may endanger his children. 

As he signed the visa documents for his three children at the terminal gate on Tuesday night, Mr Machiridza pulled his youngest daughter close and told her "our day has come".

"I feel like this is a closed chapter now," he said with his three children by his side.

"Now I can move on and take a new responsibility of taking care for my kids without fearing for their lives, without fearing that anything I say here may trigger some negativity back at home that might endanger their lives."


Mr Machiridza said seeking refuge in Canberra without his children was a painful experience but he believed it was the best thing he could do for them.

"I kept on holding on to hope because I really believed coming here as a refugee was for their sake," he said.

"If had been alone I probably would have stayed at home and continued to fight but I had to stay alive because of them - I had an obligation to look after them."

Mr Machiridza's tears of joy echoed in the airport terminal as businessmen and women returned to the capital to embark on another working week.  

"I left you as babies and now look at you," he said. "I won't live as a lone ranger ever again."

Mr Machiridza thanked Canberra Refugee Support and the local community who helped him raise enough money by attending his musical concerts.

"It just breaks my heart that I cannot have them here with me," he said before a concert earlier this year.

"I miss having them around me, watching them grow up, and being able guide them. They love music just as much as I do so I miss playing with them."

After arriving in Australia, Mr Machiridza studied social work at the Australian Catholic University in Canberra and graduated in December 2013 finding full-time work a few months later.

His decision to build a career helping the Canberra community was cathartic and motivated by a desire to give back to the people who had supported him.

"I felt that pursuing social work would be a process of self-healing," he said.

"If I expressed good will to others, then in that process I would be able to deal with my own bitter past. It was also a way I could give back to all those people who have assisted me in Australia and elsewhere that I may never meet."

Mr Machiridza said refugees could play a strong role in Australian society and could make a significant contribution to public life if supported.

"I believe that if someone that is down can be supported and be assisted to rebuild hope and resilience, then they can manage to not only be stronger but make a tremendous contribution to the society that has nurtured and taken care of them," he said. 

While Mr Machiridza did not wish to comment on Australia's current stance on asylum seekers, he said "for someone to run away from their country, there must be something that is really after their life".