Farhad Bandesh loved playing the guitar until immigration detention guards took it away, claiming he would hang himself on the strings.
Desperate to find a safe place to call home, the musician and artist had fled Kurdistan in 2013.
He and 60 other refugees crammed onto a small fishing boat, hoping to reach Australian shores.
"We put our lives at risk but I had to take the chance - this challenge where many people lose their money, families, and many people die," he told AAP.
"But I was happy because I believed I had freedom, that the ocean would take me to freedom."
As the boat pushed off the Malaysian coast, Mr Bandesh was greeted by the glint of the full moon reflected in the glassy sea.
"Seeing it gave me the energy to be myself and survive," he said.
"That was the most beautiful moment because I thought I was going to release the feelings of pain and feel some kind of relief."
After 10 days at sea, they were stopped by an Australian government vessel and taken to Christmas Island.
When they made landfall, they were told they would never settle in Australia.
Mr Bandesh was exiled to Manus Island.
In detention, he was beaten, denied basic necessities and, for two years, bled continuously as detention staff refused him medical attention, he says.
But some of the worst impacts were felt on his psyche, when guards would lend and then take away his instruments of power: a guitar, a paintbrush, an easel.
"This system is kind of teasing you to drive you mad," he said.
"But I think music is power. They don't want to give you the power to use it against them - but I did."
Many refugees have to weigh their love of art and music against their survival.
Fari Pakzamir fled to Australia from Iran in 1984, only a few years after the Islamic Revolution.
He loved listening to everything from Beethoven symphonies to international tunes and traditional Persian songs.
Iranians risked 10 lashes for every music tape they owned.
Mr Pakzamir had 30, but for him, it was worth the danger.
"Without music, my life means nothing," he said.
Although his journey to Australia was also long and fraught, he was largely welcomed by local authorities.
He feels for those like Mr Bandesh, who came from similarly dangerous situations only to be locked away in detention centres.
"It's heartbreaking," he said.
During his time in detention, Mr Bandesh created more than 150 pieces of art and music in collaboration with Australian artists to call out the government's immigration policy.
Most recently, filmmaker Jack Rintoul has worked with Mr Bandesh and Mr Pakzamir on Gitar, a film about music, refugees and the Manus Island experience.
In it, Mr Bandesh plays a representation of himself and although it was triggering and traumatic at times, he was grateful to be able to collaborate with others to shine a light on the government's actions.
"They want to people go away from this land - it's really horrible," he said.
"I'm not criminal, not making trouble. I make good things, songs, music, art, and so I am positive for society."
Mr Bandesh was held in detention for eight years on Manus Island and in hotel detention.
While he is now in the community, he still has no permanent visa.
"Australia is meant to be a lucky country, we think everybody here is treated the same but we're not," he said.
"There are so many things to be fixed in this land.
"Hopefully, very soon they (the government) will learn how to be kind to humans and do the right thing."
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Australian Associated Press
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