Imagine being in Year 8 when an announcement is made over the loudspeaker that your school has to close as it can no longer guarantee your safety.
In 1996, this was a defining moment for Private Hassiba Sahar, the eldest child in a large family that cherished education.
“They asked us to go home because the Taliban had taken over Kabul,” Private Sahar said.
Seeking a better life for their eldest child, Private Sahar’s parents walked the family, including her 11 siblings, across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to meet the Afghan-born Australian they’d arranged for their daughter to marry. Private Sahar was 16 at the time.
A few weeks later Private Sahar’s spouse visa was granted and she flew to Australia, hopeful and optimistic for a new start.
Settling into her new Western Sydney home, Private Sahar put her dreams of continuing her education on hold while she started a family.
“My husband promised my parents that I was going to learn English and go to school and university,” she said.
Four years later, Private Sahar was the proud mother of three daughters, but she still could not speak English.
With her husband failing to deliver on his promise to support her education goals, Private Sahar made a culturally taboo decision.
“Deciding to leave my husband was very difficult,” she said.
Over the next 10 years, Private Sahar juggled being a single mother, part-time student and full-time employee.
“I had great teachers at Bankstown TAFE,” she said.
“I developed ideas that were not really expected of a woman back home.
“I felt like I found myself.”
In 2007 Private Sahar started studying a Bachelor of Criminology and Policing at Western Sydney University.
After completing her degree in 2011, Private Sahar delayed her graduation ceremony so her family could attend.
While they were unable to travel, Private Sahar flew with her daughters to Afghanistan for a holiday.
Australia gave me safety and security and the freedom to be who I wanted to be.
That holiday led to Private Sahar working with US Aid, an experience that reignited her dream of joining the Army.
“Ever since I was young, I wanted to join the Army,” Private Sahar said.
“While I was growing up, seeing soldiers all the time felt normal.
“When I first came to Australia, I wanted to join the Army, but I knew that I couldn’t speak English and that you would have to have some kind of education to join.”
Private Sahar admits to doing a lot of research before contacting Defence Force Recruiting.
“There’s so many jobs in the Army,” she said.
For Private Sahar, joining the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police felt like a natural fit.
Attracted to the varied Military Police role, she now has gained experience and said no two days were the same.
“Being in the Army, you’re always pushed to your limits,” she said
“You’re always developing yourself through theory and hands-on learning.”
Two years into her career, Private Sahar is posted to the 6 Brigade’s 1st Military Police Battalion at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera, Queensland.
“Australia gave me safety and security and the freedom to be who I wanted to be,” she said.
“I felt that I could choose to do what I wanted to do, including choosing to follow my religion without being persecuted.
“I am very thankful for the opportunities I have received and I want to give back to the country that has given me so much.”
For more information about the role of Military Police in the Army, visit https://www.defencejobs.gov.au/jobs/army/military-police