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This Refugee Just Got Talked About At The UN And He's An Icon

Aliir Aliir is the pin-up for Turnbull's "multicultural nation".

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Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull used part of his first ever speech to the UN General Assembly to talk about one of the AFL's first ever Sudanese players, Aliir Aliir.

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During a section of Turnbull's speech on Wednesday about Australia's policies towards immigrants and asylum seekers, the PM insisted the controversial measures taken to secure the country's borders allowed it to take more refugees and immigrants.

He brought up the story of Aliir Aliir, who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp after his family fled Sudan's civil war.

"Aliir and his friends would use strips of old clothing as a football," said Turnbull.

"He was seven when his family came to Australia, tall, fast and agile, Aliir was a natural for Australian rules football and once he took up the game, he hasn't looked back."

"Earlier this year I was delighted when Aliir debuted for the AFL team I support, the Sydney Swans."

Tracey Nearmy / AAPIMAGE

Aliir grew up in Brisbane and played junior footy in Perth before being drafted by the Swans and making his debut earlier this year.

He has now played 12 games for the AFL's minor premiers and is a tall fixture in the side's back line.


Aliir says he's got awesome support from his family, telling Triple J, "my mum, she chats to her brothers back home but I don’t think anyone will know AFL. Hopefully when I do go back I’ll take a couple of footies and some boots and introduce them to the game.”

Instagram: @aliirmayom

He is also thrilled other Sudanese players are kicking goals in the AFL.

Instagram: @aliirmayom

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

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