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Sepideh's courageous escape

Imagine being 12 years old, with gold coins covertly sewed to your clothes and taken into the mountains by smugglers in the back of a truck with 30 other strangers in the hope of a better life.

That is a small part of Engineering Contracts Lead Sepideh Nicholson’s incredible journey from Iran to Australia and now, BHP.

Known as Sep to her colleagues, she is passionate about diversity and said it is why she was happy sharing her story for Harmony week.

“Diversity is so much more than just gender or female diversity,” Sep said.

“It’s important to not have pre-conceived perceptions of where people are from, who they are or what their story may be.

“We need to move away from saying we tolerate others, and to say we accept and celebrate our differences.”

Growing up in Iran, Sep said she had great memories of her childhood, but it was a mixture of experiences.

“We spent our summers travelling the north of Iran, making the most of the ocean and hot springs,” Sep fondly recalls.

“Family and culture was big for us and while Iran is a beautiful country with beautiful people, we were also subject discrimination because of our Bahai faith.

“When I was seven, my Dad was taken to jail while working for the Bank of Iran. He lost his job because people of the Bahai faith were not allowed to work for the government.”

A few years later, after Sep’s father was released from prison, her parents made the decision to flee the country.

“People of Bahai faith could not get a passport,” Sep said.

“My parents’ only option was to pay smugglers to get us out.

“I remember it vividly. We were excited but also very anxious. I admire what my parents - who would have been only in their 30’s - would have been feeling.

“The fear and the responsibility to look after me and my two sisters, while saying goodbye to their parents, knowing it is very likely they will never see them again.”

Reflecting on her journey, Sep said she’s grateful for her life experiences because it helped her build resilience.

“My parents’ sacrifices are what drives me today.

“I saw my parents go through so many hardships. But they were never down, defeated or sorry for themselves. They picked up the pieces and soldiered on.

“I want to build resilience in my own kids now.”

Sep also spoke to Business News Australia about her journey and you can read it here.